Segmental Aortic Stiffening Contributes to Experimental Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Development
Background—Stiffening of the aortic wall is a phenomenon consistently observed in age and in abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). However, its role in AAA pathophysiology is largely undefined.
Methods and Results—Using an established murine elastase-induced AAA model, we demonstrate that segmental aortic stiffening (SAS) precedes aneurysm growth. Finite element analysis (FEA) reveals that early stiffening of the aneurysm-prone aortic segment leads to axial (longitudinal) wall stress generated by cyclic (systolic) tethering of adjacent, more compliant wall segments. Interventional stiffening of AAA-adjacent aortic segments (via external application of surgical adhesive) significantly reduces aneurysm growth. These changes correlate with reduced segmental stiffness of the AAA-prone aorta (due to equalized stiffness in adjacent segments), reduced axial wall stress, decreased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), attenuated elastin breakdown, and decreased expression of inflammatory cytokines and macrophage infiltration, as well as attenuated apoptosis within the aortic wall. Cyclic pressurization of segmentally stiffened aortic segments ex vivo increases the expression of genes related to inflammation and extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling. Finally, human ultrasound studies reveal that aging, a significant AAA risk factor, is accompanied by segmental infrarenal aortic stiffening.
Conclusions—The present study introduces the novel concept of segmental aortic stiffening (SAS) as an early pathomechanism generating aortic wall stress and triggering aneurysmal growth, thereby delineating potential underlying molecular mechanisms and therapeutic targets. In addition, monitoring SAS may aid the identification of patients at risk for AAA.
- Received July 28, 2014.
- Revision received February 10, 2015.
- Accepted March 5, 2015.