Background: Infusion of the abdominal aorta with pancreatic elastase induces aneurysms in a rat model (Anidjar/Dobrin). Because elastolysis liberates elastin degradation products (EDPs), the present experiment was carried out to test the hypothesis that an EDP alone could induce features of aneurysm disease.
Methods: The EDP val/gly/val/ala/pro/gly (VGVAPG), elastase, or saline solution was infused into infrarenal aorta (n = 4/group). After 1 week aortic diameters were measured, and the tissues were prepared for histologic examination. Adventitial capillaries (vessels per high-power field) were counted over a standardized preparation of aorta. Wall thickness was measured by means of computer-aided planimetry.
Results: There was an increase of greater than 100-fold in mean vessels per high-power field in aortas receiving VGVAPG or elastase versus saline controls (4.10 +/- 0.68 SEM or 4.48 +/- 0.49 SEM versus 0.03 +/- 0.03 SEM, respectively, p < 0.05). The VGVAPG-perfused group had a 26% +/- 4% SEM increase in diameter from baseline that was statistically significant (p < 0.01), but the aortas did not reach aneurysmal dimensions.
Conclusions: Although no aneurysms occurred at 1 week after the infusion of EDP, the results demonstrate that the EDP VGVAPG can induce a characteristic feature of aneurysm disease. The model permits study of the earliest stages of experimental aneurysm formation and raises interesting questions regarding the role of the vasa vasorum in this pathologic process.