Control of blood vessel structure: insights from theoretical models.
Blood vessels are capable of continuous structural adaptation in response to changing local conditions and functional requirements. Theoretical modeling approaches have stimulated the development of new concepts in this area and have allowed investigation of the complex relations between adaptive responses to multiple stimuli and resulting functional properties of vascular networks. Early analyses based on a minimum-work principle predicted uniform wall shear stress in all segments of vascular networks and led to the concept that vessel diameter is controlled by a feedback system based on responses to wall shear stress. Vascular reactions to changes in transmural pressure suggested feedback control of circumferential wall stress. However, theoretical simulations of network adaptation showed that these two mechanisms cannot, by themselves, lead to stable and realistic network structures. Models combining reactions to fluid shear stress, circumferential stress, and metabolic status of tissue, with propagation of stimuli upstream and downstream along vascular segments, are needed to explain stable and functionally adequate adaptation of vascular structure. Such models provide a basis for predicting the response of vascular segments exposed to altered conditions, as, for example, in vascular grafts.
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