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J Biomech Eng. 2002 Aug;124(4):397-407.

A new in vitro model to evaluate differential responses of endothelial cells to simulated arterial shear stress waveforms.

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Center for Excellence in Vascular Biology, Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


In the circulation, flow-responsive endothelial cells (ECs) lining the lumen of blood vessels are continuously exposed to complex hemodynamic forces. To increase our understanding of EC response to these dynamic shearing forces, a novel in vitro flow model was developed to simulate pulsatile shear stress waveforms encountered by the endothelium in the arterial circulation. A modified waveform modeled after flow patterns in the human abdominal aorta was used to evaluate the biological responsiveness of human umbilical vein ECs to this new type of stimulus. Arterial pulsatile flow for 24 hours was compared to an equivalent time-average steady laminar shear stress, using no flow (static) culture conditions as a baseline. While both flow stimuli induced comparable changes in cell shape and alignment, distinct patterns of responses were observed in the distribution of actin stress fibers and vinculin-associated adhesion complexes, intrinsic migratory characteristics, and the expression of eNOS mRNA and protein. These results thus reveal a unique responsiveness of ECs to an arterial waveform and begin to elucidate the complex sensing capabilities of the endothelium to the dynamic characteristics of flows throughout the human vascular tree.

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