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Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells in Aortic Aneurysm: From Genetics to Mechanisms
Journal of the American Heart Association  (IF5.501),  Pub Date : 2021-11-19, DOI: 10.1161/jaha.121.023601
Haocheng Lu, Wa Du, Lu Ren, Milton H. Hamblin, Richard C. Becker, Y. Eugene Chen, Yanbo Fan


Aortic aneurysm, including thoracic aortic aneurysm and abdominal aortic aneurysm, is the second most prevalent aortic disease following atherosclerosis, representing the ninth‐leading cause of death globally. Open surgery and endovascular procedures are the major treatments for aortic aneurysm. Typically, thoracic aortic aneurysm has a more robust genetic background than abdominal aortic aneurysm. Abdominal aortic aneurysm shares many features with thoracic aortic aneurysm, including loss of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), extracellular matrix degradation and inflammation. Although there are limitations to perfectly recapitulating all features of human aortic aneurysm, experimental models provide valuable tools to understand the molecular mechanisms and test novel therapies before human clinical trials. Among the cell types involved in aortic aneurysm development, VSMC dysfunction correlates with loss of aortic wall structural integrity. Here, we discuss the role of VSMCs in aortic aneurysm development. The loss of VSMCs, VSMC phenotypic switching, secretion of inflammatory cytokines, increased matrix metalloproteinase activity, elevated reactive oxygen species, defective autophagy, and increased senescence contribute to aortic aneurysm development. Further studies on aortic aneurysm pathogenesis and elucidation of the underlying signaling pathways are necessary to identify more novel targets for treating this prevalent and clinical impactful disease.