Blood vessels are exposed to multiple mechanical forces that are exerted on the vessel wall (radial, circumferential and longitudinal forces) or on the endothelial surface (shear stress). The stresses and strains experienced by arteries influence the initiation of atherosclerotic lesions, which develop at regions of arteries that are exposed to complex blood flow. In addition, plaque progression and eventually plaque rupture is influenced by a complex interaction between biological and mechanical factors-mechanical forces regulate the cellular and molecular composition of plaques and, conversely, the composition of plaques determines their ability to withstand mechanical load. A deeper understanding of these interactions is essential for designing new therapeutic strategies to prevent lesion development and promote plaque stabilization. Moreover, integrating clinical imaging techniques with finite element modelling techniques allows for detailed examination of local morphological and biomechanical characteristics of atherosclerotic lesions that may be of help in prediction of future events. In this ESC Position Paper on biomechanical factors in atherosclerosis, we summarize the current 'state of the art' on the interface between mechanical forces and atherosclerotic plaque biology and identify potential clinical applications and key questions for future research.

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European Heart Journal
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Kwak, B. R., Bäck, M., Bochaton-Piallat, M.-L., Caligiuri, G., Daemen, M., Davies, P. F., … Evans, P. (2014). Biomechanical factors in atherosclerosis: Mechanisms and clinical implications. European Heart Journal (Vol. 35, pp. 3013–3020). doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehu353