Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

, Volume 11, Issue 8, pp 1169–1186

Extracellular matrix and the mechanics of large artery development

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10237-012-0405-8

Cite this article as:
Cheng, J.K. & Wagenseil, J.E. Biomech Model Mechanobiol (2012) 11: 1169. doi:10.1007/s10237-012-0405-8


The large, elastic arteries, as their name suggests, provide elastic distention and recoil during the cardiac cycle in vertebrate animals. The arteries are distended from the pressure of ejecting blood during the active contraction of the left ventricle (LV) during systole and recoil to their original dimensions during relaxation of the LV during diastole. The cyclic distension occurs with minimal energy loss, due to the elastic properties of one of the major structural extracellular matrix (ECM) components, elastin. The maximum distension is limited to prevent damage to the artery by another major ECM component, collagen. The mix of ECM components in the wall largely determines the passive mechanical behavior of the arteries and the subsequent load on the heart during systole. While much research has focused on initial artery formation, there has been less attention on the continuing development of the artery to produce the mature composite wall complete with endothelial cells (ECs), smooth muscle cells (SMCs), and the necessary mix of ECM components for proper cardiovascular function. This review focuses on the physiology of large artery development, including SMC differentiation and ECM production. The effects of hemodynamic forces and ECM deposition on the evolving arterial structure and function are discussed. Human diseases and mouse models with genetic mutations in ECM proteins that affect large artery development are summarized. A review of constitutive models and growth and remodeling theories is presented, along with future directions to improve understanding of ECM and the mechanics of large artery development.


Elastin Collagen Biomechanics Aorta 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical EngineeringWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical EngineeringSaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA

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