A combined numerical and experimental framework for determining permeability properties of the arterial media
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The medial layer of the arterial wall may play an important role in the regulation of water and solute transport across the wall. In particular, a high medial resistance to transport could cause accumulation of lipid-carrying molecules in the inner wall. In this study, the water transport properties of medial tissue were characterised in a numerical model, utilising experimentally obtained data for the medial microstructure and the relative permeability of different constituents. For the model, a new solver for flow in porous materials, based on a high-order splitting scheme, was implemented in the spectral/hp element library nektar++ and validated. The data were obtained by immersing excised aortic bifurcations in a solution of fluorescent protein tracer and subsequently imaging them with a confocal microscope. Cuboidal regions of interest were selected in which the microstructure and relative permeability of different structures were transformed to a computational mesh. Impermeable objects were treated fictitiously in the numerical scheme. On this cube, a pressure drop was applied in the three coordinate directions and the principal components of the permeability tensor were determined. The reconstructed images demonstrated the arrangement of elastic lamellae and interspersed smooth muscle cells in rat aortic media; the distribution and alignment of the smooth muscle cells varied spatially within the extracellular matrix. The numerical simulations highlighted that the heterogeneity of the medial structure is important in determining local water transport properties of the tissue, resulting in regional and directional variation of the permeability tensor. A major factor in this variation is the alignment and density of smooth muscle cells in the media, particularly adjacent to the adventitial layer.
KeywordsPermeability Porous media Medial layer Atherosclerosis Spectral/hp element method
This study was funded by the European Commission Marie Curie Integration Fellowship, the British Heart Foundation and the BHF Centre of Research Excellence.
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