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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2003 Jun;284(6):H2204-12. Epub 2003 Feb 6.

Structural response of microcirculatory networks to changes in demand: information transfer by shear stress.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, Germany.


Matching blood flow to metabolic demand in terminal vascular beds involves coordinated changes in diameters of vessels along flow pathways, requiring upstream and downstream transfer of information on local conditions. Here, the role of information transfer mechanisms in structural adaptation of microvascular networks after a small change in capillary oxygen demand was studied using a theoretical model. The model includes diameter adaptation and information transfer via vascular reactions to wall shear stress, transmural pressure, and oxygen levels. Information transfer is additionally effected by conduction along vessel walls and by convection of metabolites. The model permits selective blocking of information transfer mechanisms. Six networks, based on in vivo data, were considered. With information transfer, increases in network conductance and capillary oxygen supply were amplified by factors of 4.9 +/- 0.2 and 9.4 +/- 1.1 (means +/- SE), relative to increases when information transfer was blocked. Information transfer by flow coupling alone, in which increased shear stress triggers vascular enlargement, gave amplifications of 4.0 +/- 0.3 and 4.9 +/- 0.5. Other information transfer mechanisms acting alone gave amplifications below 1.6. Thus shear-stress-mediated flow coupling is the main mechanism for the structural adjustment of feeding and draining vessel diameters to small changes in capillary oxygen demand.

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