Models of coupled smooth muscleand endothelial cells
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Impaired mass transfer characteristics of blood borne vasoactive species such as ATP in regions such as an arterial bifurcation have been hypothesized as a prospective mechanism in the aetiology of atherosclerotic lesions. Arterial endothelial (EC) and smooth muscle cells (SMC) respond differentially to altered local hemodynamics and produce coordinated macro-scale responses via intercellular communication. Using a computationally designed arterial segment comprising large populations of mathematically modelled coupled ECs & SMCs, we investigate their response to spatial gradients of blood borne agonist concentrations and the effect of micro-scale driven perturbation on the macro-scale. Altering homocellular (between same cell type) and heterocellular (between different cell types) intercellular coupling we simulated four cases of normal and pathological arterial segments experiencing an identical gradient in the concentration of the agonist. Results show that the heterocellular calcium (Ca2+) coupling between ECs and SMCs is important in eliciting a rapid response when the vessel segment is stimulated by the agonist gradient. In the absence of heterocellular coupling, homocellular Ca2+ coupling between smooth muscle cells is necessary for propagation of Ca2+ waves from downstream to upstream cells axially. Desynchronized intracellular Ca2+ oscillations in coupled smooth muscle cells are mandatory for this propagation. Upon decoupling the heterocellular membrane potential, the arterial segment looses the inhibitory effect of endothelial cells on the Ca2+ dynamics of underlying smooth muscle cells. The full system comprising hundreds of thousands of coupled nonlinear ordinary differential equations simulated on the massively parallel Blue Gene architecture. The use of massively parallel computational architectures shows the capability of this approach to address macro-scale phenomena driven by elementary micro-scale components of the system.