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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2004 Dec;15(12):2959-64.

Vascular calcification mechanisms.

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Bioengineering Department, Box 351720, University of Washington, Okanogan Lane, Bagley Hall, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Vascular calcification is highly correlated with cardiovascular disease mortality, especially in patients with ESRD or diabetes. In addition to the devastating effects of inappropriate biomineralization seen in cardiac valvulopathies, calciphylaxis, and idiopathic arterial calcification, vascular calcification is now recognized as a marker of atherosclerotic plaque burden as well as a major contributor to loss of arterial compliance and increased pulse pressure seen with age, diabetes, and renal insufficiency. In recent years, several mechanisms to explain vascular calcification have been identified including (1) loss of inhibition, (2) induction of bone formation, (3) circulating nucleational complexes, and (4) cell death. Alterations in calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) balance as seen in patients with ESRD promotes vascular calcification via multiple mechanisms and may explain the alarmingly high levels of cardiovascular disease deaths in these patients. Strategies to control Ca and P levels in patients with ESRD have met with early success in preventing progression of vascular calcification. Whether or not vascular calcification can be reversed is not yet known, but exciting new studies suggest that this may be possible in the future.

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