Objective: Elastin gene deletion or mutation leads to arterial stenoses due to vascular smooth muscle cell (SMC) proliferation. Human induced pluripotent stem cells-derived SMCs can model the elastin insufficiency phenotype in vitro but show only partial rescue with rapamycin. Our objective was to identify drug candidates with superior efficacy in rescuing the SMC phenotype in elastin insufficiency patients. Approach and Results: SMCs generated from induced pluripotent stem cells from 5 elastin insufficiency patients with severe recurrent vascular stenoses (3 Williams syndrome and 2 elastin mutations) were phenotypically immature, hyperproliferative, poorly responsive to endothelin, and exerted reduced tension in 3-dimensional smooth muscle biowires. Elastin mRNA and protein were reduced in SMCs from patients compared to healthy control SMCs. Fourteen drug candidates were tested on patient SMCs. Of the mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitors studied, everolimus restored differentiation, rescued proliferation, and improved endothelin-induced calcium flux in all patient SMCs except one Williams syndrome. Of the calcium channel blockers, verapamil increased SMC differentiation and reduced proliferation in Williams syndrome patient cells but not in elastin mutation patients and had no effect on endothelin response. Combination treatment with everolimus and verapamil was not superior to everolimus alone. Other drug candidates had limited efficacy.
Conclusions: Everolimus caused the most consistent improvement in SMC differentiation, proliferation and in SMC function in patients with both syndromic and nonsyndromic elastin insufficiency, and offers the best candidate for drug repurposing for treatment of elastin insufficiency associated vasculopathy.
Keywords: elastin; genes; mutation; stem cells; vascular diseases.