A novel apparatus for the multifaceted evaluation of artery function was developed. It measures endothelial and smooth muscle functions and the pressure-strain elastic modulus (E p). A rigid airtight chamber with an ultrasound probe was attached to the upper arm to manipulate the transmural pressure of the brachial artery. Endothelial function was measured via a standard flow-mediated dilation (FMD) protocol. Smooth muscle function was evaluated via a myogenic contraction of the artery following the application of negative pressure to the chamber and was named pressure-mediated contraction (PMC). E p was obtained by measuring the instantaneous increase in the artery diameter following the negative pressure application. The PMC and FMD values had a significant negative correlation with age, indicating that the age-related decrease in FMD is caused by the decay of endothelial and smooth muscle function. A consideration of PMC may help improve the accuracy of artery function measurement. E p in subjects aged >40 years was found to be significantly higher in the supra-physiological pressure range than in the physiological one (p = 0.02); this did not occur in younger subjects. Artery stiffening may begin in the supra-physiological range, and this stiffness may also be used for the diagnosis of atherosclerosis.
Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Bayliss effect; Endothelial cell; Flow-mediated dilation; Smooth muscle cell.