Atherosclerotic geometries exacerbate pathological thrombus formation poststenosis in a von Willebrand factor-dependent manner

Erik Westein, Andries D. van der Meer, Marijke J.E. Kuijpers, Jean-Philippe Frimat, Albert van den Berg, Johan W.M. Heemskerk

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    Rupture of a vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque causes thrombus formation and precipitates cardiovascular diseases. In addition to the thrombogenic content of a plaque, also the hemodynamic microenvironment plays a major role in thrombus formation. How the altered hemodynamics around a plaque promote pathological thrombus formation is not well understood. In this study, we provide evidence that plaque geometries result in fluid mechanical conditions that promote platelet aggregation and thrombus formation by increased accumulation and activity of von Willebrand factor (vWF) at poststenotic sites. Resonant-scanning multiphoton microscopy revealed that in vivo arterial stenosis of a damaged carotid artery markedly increased platelet aggregate formation in the stenotic outlet region. Complementary in vitro studies using microfluidic stenotic chambers, designed to mimic the flow conditions in a stenotic artery, showed enhanced platelet aggregation in the stenotic outlet region at 60-80% channel occlusion over a range of input wall shear rates. The poststenotic thrombus formation was critically dependent on bloodborne vWF and autocrine platelet stimulation. In stenotic chambers containing endothelial cells, flow provoked increased endothelial vWF secretion in the stenotic outlet region, contributing to exacerbated platelet aggregation. Taken together, this study identifies a role for the shear-sensitive protein vWF in transducing hemodynamic forces that are present around a stenosis to a prothrombogenic microenvironment resulting in spatially confined and exacerbated platelet aggregation in the stenosis outlet region. The developed stenotic microfluidic chamber offers a realistic platform for in vitro evaluation of shear-dependent thrombus formation in the setting of atherosclerosis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1357-1362
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2013


    • EWI-23778
    • METIS-300048
    • IR-87420


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