Connecting the Dots: How Injury in the Arterial Wall Contributes to Atherosclerotic Disease

Hanane Belhoul - Fakir, Michael Lawrence-Brown, Peter Thompson, Juliana Hamzah, Shirley Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: The occurrence and development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, which can result in severe outcomes, such as myocardial infarction, stroke, loss of limb, renal failure, and infarction of the gut, are strongly associated with injury to the intimal component of the arterial wall whether via the inside-out or outside-in pathways. The role of injury to the tunica media as a pathway of atherosclerosis initiation is an under-researched area. This review focuses on potential pathways to vessel wall injury as well as current experimental and clinical research in the middle-aged and elderly populations, including the role of exercise, as it relates to injury to the tunica media.
Methods: A database search using PubMed and Google Scholar was conducted for research articles published between 1909 and 2023 that focused on pathways of atherogenesis and the impact of mechanical forces on wall injury. The following key words were searched: wall injury, tunica media, atherogenesis, vascular aging, and wall strain. Studies were analyzed, and the relevant information was extracted from each study.
Findings: A link between high mechanical stress in the arterial wall and reduced vascular compliance was found. The stiffening and calcification of the arterial wall with aging induce high blood pressure and pulse pressure, thereby causing incident hypertension and cardiovascular disease. In turn, prolonged high mechanical stress, particularly wall strain, applied to the arterial wall during vigorous exercise, results in stiffening and calcification of tunica media, accelerated arterial aging, and cardiovascular disease events. In both scenarios, the tunica media is the primary target of mechanical stress and the first to respond to hemodynamic changes. The cyclical nature of these impacts confounds the results of each because they are not mutually exclusive.
Implications: The role of stress in the tunica media appears to be overlooked despite its relevance, and further research into new primary preventive therapies is needed aside from cautioning the role of vigorous exercise in the elderly population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1092-1098
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Therapeutics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes


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