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The genetic basis for altered blood vessel function in disease: large artery stiffening

Authors Alex Agrotis

Published 15 December 2005 Volume 2005:1(4) Pages 333—344

Alex Agrotis

The Cell Biology Laboratory, Baker Heart Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Abstract: The progressive stiffening of the large arteries in humans that occurs during aging constitutes a potential risk factor for increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and is accompanied by an elevation in systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure. While the underlying basis for these changes remains to be fully elucidated, factors that are able to influence the structure and composition of the extracellular matrix and the way it interacts with arterial smooth muscle cells could profoundly affect the properties of the large arteries. Thus, while age and sex represent important factors contributing to large artery stiffening, the variation in growth-stimulating factors and those that modulate extracellular production and homeostasis are also being increasingly recognized to play a key role in the process. Therefore, elucidating the contribution that genetic variation makes to large artery stiffening could ultimately provide the basis for clinical strategies designed to regulate the process for therapeutic benefit.

Keywords: arterial stiffness, genes, polymorphism, extracellular matrix proteins

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