|March 17, 2017
J Biomech Eng
, (2017); doi: 10.1115/1.4036261
Elastin and collagen fibers are the major load-bearing extracellular matrix (ECM) constituents of the vascular wall. Arteries function differently than veins in the circulatory system, however as a result from several treatment options veins are subjected to sudden elevated arterial pressure. It is thus important to recognize the fundamental structure and function differences between a vein and an artery. Our research compared the relationship between biaxial mechanical function and ECM structure of porcine thoracic aorta and inferior vena cava. Our study suggests that aorta contains slightly more elastin than collagen due to the cyclical extensibility, but vena cava contains almost four times more collagen than elastin to maintain integrity. Furthermore, multiphoton imaging of vena cava showed longitudinally oriented elastin and circumferentially oriented collagen that is recruited at supraphysiologic stress, but low levels of strain. However in aorta, elastin is distributed uniformly and the primarily circumferentially oriented collagen is recruited at higher levels of strain than vena cava. These structural observations support the functional finding that vena cava is highly anisotropic with the longitude being more compliant and the circumference stiffening substantially at low levels of strain. Overall, our research demonstrates that fiber distributions and recruitment should be considered in addition to relative collagen and elastin contents. Also, the importance of accounting for the structural and functional differences between arteries and veins should be taken into account when considering disease treatment options.