Human coronary artery remodeling, beginning and end of the atherosclerotic process

PLoS One. 2006 Dec 20;1(1):e91. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000091.


BACKGROUND, AIMS OF THE STUDY: The objective of the study was to relate the progress of coronary artery remodeling to the earliest stages of the atherosclerotic process. For this purpose, a mathematical model for description of dimensional change of the coronary artery wall and its constituent components was developed and applied.

Materials and methods: The study used coronary artery samples randomly taken from each of 83 consecutive, unselected postmortems. All samples were routinely fixed and processed to paraffin for the preparation of right-angled, 5-micron sections, routinely stained and mounted for subsequent analysis. Computer assisted image analysis, using 32 systematic random, radial sampling lines, was used for interactive measurements of distance from centre of lumen to points defining intima, media and adventitia thickness along the radial intercept, which were subsequently tabled for analysis of variance, calculations of (group-vessel) means, and related to stage of pathology.

Results: Pre-atherosclerotic changes, before any localised changes in especially intima dimensions, are found, consisting of a process of gradual vascular widening, associated with temporally at least partly dissociated increases in width, which as a fraction of total vessel radius show a phased process. In these, the intima first increases, subsequently remains stable, and finally reduces in width proportionally to the increasing diameter. The media shows a similar initial increase, on average stabilising in the third phase after reaching a plateau value in the second. The adventitia, already increasing in phase 1, continues to increase in phase 2, accelerating in phase 3. The complex process, as found, occurs systematically in all vessels, is distributed circumferentially, and precedes the development of localised lesions of the intima.

Conclusions: The findings suggest the existence of a diffuse complex of changes, consisting of a gradual vascular widening followed by narrowing, with associated mural changes reflecting the atherosclerotic process.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Biostatistics
  • Connective Tissue / pathology
  • Coronary Artery Disease / etiology*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / pathology*
  • Coronary Vessels / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Tunica Intima / pathology
  • Tunica Media / pathology