Effects of disturbed flow on endothelial cells

J Biomech Eng. 1998 Feb;120(1):2-8. doi: 10.1115/1.2834303.


Atherosclerotic lesions tend to localize at curvatures and branches of the arterial system, where the local flow is often disturbed and irregular (e.g., flow separation, recirculation, complex flow patterns, and nonuniform shear stress distributions). The effects of such flow conditions on cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were studied in vitro by using a vertical-step flow channel (VSF). Detailed shear stress distributions and flow structures have been computed by using the finite volume method in a general curvilinear coordinate system. HUVECs in the reattachment areas with low shear stresses were generally rounded in shape. In contrast, the cells under higher shear stresses were significantly elongated and aligned with the flow direction, even for those in the area with reversed flow. When HUVECs were subjected to shearing in VSF, their actin stress fibers reorganized in association with the morphological changes. The rate of DNA synthesis in the vicinity of the flow reattachment area was higher than that in the laminar flow area. These in vitro experiments have provided data for the understanding of the in vivo responses of endothelial cells under complex flow environments found in regions of prevalence of atherosclerotic lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • DNA Replication / physiology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Hemodynamics / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Umbilical Veins