Biomechanical modeling and morphology analysis indicates plaque rupture due to mechanical failure unlikely in atherosclerosis-prone mice

Ian C Campbell, Daiana Weiss, Jonathan D Suever, Renu Virmani, Alessandro Veneziani, Raymond P Vito, John N Oshinski, W Robert Taylor
American Journal of Physiology. Heart and Circulatory Physiology 2013 February 1, 304 (3): H473-86
Spontaneous plaque rupture in mouse models of atherosclerosis is controversial, although numerous studies have discussed so-called "vulnerable plaque" phenotypes in mice. We compared the morphology and biomechanics of two acute and one chronic murine model of atherosclerosis to human coronaries of the thin-cap fibroatheroma (TCFA) phenotype. Our acute models were apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE(-/-)) and LDL receptor-deficient (LDLr(-/-)) mice, both fed a high-fat diet for 8 wk with simultaneous infusion of angiotensin II (ANG II), and our chronic mouse model was the apolipoprotein E-deficient strain fed a regular chow diet for 1 yr. We found that the mouse plaques from all three models exhibited significant morphological differences from human TCFA plaques, including the plaque burden, plaque thickness, eccentricity, and amount of the vessel wall covered by lesion as well as significant differences in the relative composition of plaques. These morphological differences suggested that the distribution of solid mechanical stresses in the walls may differ as well. Using a finite-element analysis computational solid mechanics model, we computed the relative distribution of stresses in the walls of murine and human plaques and found that although human TCFA plaques have the highest stresses in the thin fibrous cap, murine lesions do not have such stress distributions. Instead, local maxima of stresses were on the media and adventitia, away from the plaque. Our results suggest that if plaque rupture is possible in mice, it may be driven by a different mechanism than mechanics.

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