Purpose: Ionizing radiation has been shown to be a powerful inhibitor of neointimal hyperplasia following arterial injury in several animal models of post-percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (post-PTCA) restenosis. This was previously shown to be associated with a reduction in smooth muscle cell (SMC) mitotic activity. This study evaluated the effect of intraarterial beta irradiation on the arterial wall SMC density and apoptosis.
Methods and materials: Twenty-five carotid and 7 iliac arteries of hypercholesterolemic New Zealand white rabbits were injured using the Baumgartner technique. The impact of an 18 Gy beta radiation dose administered after balloon injury was studied and compared to a nonirradiated injured control group. The medial SMC density as well as the percentage of apoptotic cells were determined at 8 days, 21 days, and 6 weeks after injury using an automated computer-based software. Apoptotic cells were identified using in situ end-labeling of fragmented DNA.
Results: The values for medial apoptosis in control vs. irradiated arteries were: 0.014 +/- 0.023 vs. 0.23 +/- 0.28%, p = NS, at 8 days; 0.012 +/- 0.018 vs. 0.07 +/- 0.07%, p = 0.05, at 21 days; and 0 +/- 0 vs. 0.16 +/- 0.11%, p = 0.03, at 6 weeks. The overall incidence of medial apoptotic cells at all time points was 0.01 +/- 0.017 vs. 0.13 +/- 0.14% in controls and irradiated arteries respectively, p = 0.004. Medial SMC density was significantly decreased in irradiated arteries in comparison with controls (p < 0.01 at all time-points).
Conclusions: Intraarterial beta irradiation stimulates medial SMC apoptosis in balloon-injured arteries. This, together with a decrease in SMC mitotic activity, contributes to a decrease in the arterial wall cellularity.