The Dynamic Response of Vascular Endothelial Cells to Fluid Shear Stress

[+] Author and Article Information
C. F. Dewey, S. R. Bussolari

Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. 02139

M. A. Gimbrone, P. F. Davies

Vascular Pathophysiology Laboratory, Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass. 02115

J Biomech Eng 103(3), 177-185 (Aug 01, 1981) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3138276 History: Received June 15, 1981; Online June 15, 2009


We have developed an in-vitro system for studying the dynamic response of vascular endothelial cells to controlled levels of fluid shear stress. Cultured monolayers of bovine aortic endothelial cells are placed in a cone-plate apparatus that produces a uniform fluid shear stress on replicate samples. Subconfluent endothelial cultures continuously exposed to 1–5 dynes/cm2 shear proliferate at a rate comparable to that of static cultures and reach the same saturation density (≃ 1.0–1.5 × 105 cells/cm2 ). When exposed to a laminar shear stress of 5–10 dynes/cm2 , confluent monolayers undergo a time-dependent change in cell shape from polygonal to ellipsoidal and become uniformly oriented with flow. Regeneration of linear “wounds” in confluent monolayer appears to be influenced by the direction of the applied force. Preliminary studies indicate that certain endothelial cell functions, including fluid endocytosis, cytoskeletal assembly and nonthrombogenic surface properties, also are sensitive to shear stress. These observations suggest that fluid mechanical forces can directly influence endothelial cell structure and function. Modulation of endothelial behavior by fluid shear stresses may be relevant to normal vessel wall physiology, as well as the pathogenesis of vascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis.

Copyright © 1981 by ASME
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