Rationale: Increased aortic stiffness, an important feature of many vascular diseases, eg, aging, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and aortic aneurysms, is assumed because of changes in extracellular matrix (ECM). Objective: We tested the hypothesis that the mechanisms also involve intrinsic stiffening of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). Methods and Results: Stiffness was measured in vitro both by atomic force microscopy (AFM) and in a reconstituted tissue model, using VSMCs from aorta of young versus old male monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) (n=7/group), where aortic stiffness increases by 200% in vivo. The apparent elastic modulus was increased (P<0.05) in old (41.7±0.5 kPa) versus young (12.8±0.3 kPa) VSMCs but not after disassembly of the actin cytoskeleton with cytochalasin D. Stiffness of the VSMCs in the reconstituted tissue model was also higher (P<0.05) in old (23.3±3.0 kPa) than in young (13.7±2.4 kPa). Conclusions: These data support the novel concept, not appreciated previously, that increased vascular stiffness with aging is attributable not only to changes in ECM but also to intrinsic changes in VSMCs.
- vascular smooth muscle cell