The role of apoptosis in the initiation of vascular calcification
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The initiation sites for calcification in cartilage and bone are cellular products called matrix vesicles. Similar structures have been found in calcified arteries and recent studies suggest that these may be derived from apoptotic cells. It is well established that there is a link between cell death and calcification but the mechanism involved is not known. Since apoptotic cell death is known to occur in the vasculature, we set out to investigate the role of apoptosis in the initiation of vascular calcification. We used a human vascular calcification model in which postconfluent vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) cultures form nodules spontaneously and calcify after approximately 28 days. Our studies revealed that apoptosis occurred prior to the onset of calcification and that VSMC “blebs” or apoptotic bodies (ABs) could concentrate calcium in a crystallised form. These observations suggest that apoptosis is involved in the development of VSMC calcification and that VSMC-derived ABs have similarities with matrix vesicles.
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