Smooth muscle cell abundance and fibroblast growth factors in coronary lesions of patients with nonfatal unstable angina. A clue to the mechanism of transformation from the stable to the unstable clinical state.
BACKGROUND The mechanisms responsible for the transformation of stable angina to unstable angina, a major cause of morbidity and mortality, are commonly believed to be plaque rupture and thrombosis. We determined whether additional mechanisms are operative by analyzing the histopathology and immuno-histopathology of coronary plaques retrieved by directional atherectomy of patients with unstable angina in whom no intraluminal thrombus was demonstrated by angiography.
METHODS AND RESULTS The histological findings of atherectomy specimens from 34 patients with unstable angina were compared with those of 24 patients with postangioplasty restenosis, whose lesions are known to be composed of smooth muscle cells (SMCs), and 10 patients with stable angina, whose lesions contain relatively few SMCs. We also studied the expression of acidic and basic fibroblast growth factors (aFGF and bFGF), whose role in the vascular response to injury has been established. Specimens from unstable angina resembled those from postangioplasty restenosis in regard to SMC abundance (scale, 0 to 3; 1.4 +/- 0.9 versus 1.7 +/- 0.9; P = NS), and both differed from those of stable angina. Thrombus and/or hemorrhage occurred in only 34% of patients with unstable angina (compared with 8% of restenosis patients and in none of stable angina patients). Active lesions (defined as lesions (defined as lesions containing one or more of the following: thrombus, hemorrhage, abundant and disorganized SMCs in the presence of loose connective tissue, or inflammatory infiltrate) were observed in 56% of the unstable angina patients and in 50% of the restenosis patients but in none of the stable angina patients. The expression of aFGF and bFGF was detected in 80% to 100% of unstable angina (n = 11) and restenosis (n = 10) specimens but in only 1 of 5 stable angina specimens.
CONCLUSIONS Microscopic evidence of thrombosis and plaque rupture occurred in only one third of unstable angina patients, selected because they had no angiographic evidence of intracoronary thrombus. Moreover, their lesions resembled those of restenosis patients in regard to SMC abundance, lesion activity, and the expression of aFGF and bFGF. Our findings therefore suggest that an alternative mechanism to plaque rupture and thrombus formation may be operative in the precipitation of unstable angina; namely, in a subset of patients, SMC proliferation may lead to gradual plaque expansion and thereby to lumenal narrowing and unstable angina. Our data also suggest a role for aFGF and bFGF in this process.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association