May 2009

Document Type


Degree Name



Dept. of Science & Engineering


Oregon Health & Science University


The cardiovascular disease atherosclerosis is directly linked to the functions of the endothelium, the monolayer of endothelial cells (ECs) that line the lumen of all blood vessels. EC functions are affected by fluid shear stress (FSS), the tangential force exerted by flowing blood. In vivo FSS is determined by vascular geometry with relatively straight vessels producing high, unidirectional FSS and vessel branch points and curvatures producing low, oscillatory FSS. While these distinct FSS conditions differentially regulate EC functions, they also dramatically affect EC shape and cytoskeletal structure. High and unidirectional FSS induces EC elongation and cytoskeletal alignment, while concurrently promoting EC functions that are atheroprotective. In contrast, low and oscillatory FSS induces cobblestone-shaped ECs with randomly oriented cytoskeletal features, while simultaneously promoting EC functions that create an athero-prone vascular environment. Whether these distinct EC shapes and cytoskeletal structures influence EC functions, independent of FSS, is largely unknown. The overall hypothesis of this study is that cell shape and cytoskeletal structure regulate EC functions through mechanisms that are independent of FSS. Due to advances in surface engineering in the field of micropatterning, EC shape can be controlled independent of external forces by creating spatially localized surface cues. In this research, lanes of protein were micropatterned on glass surfaces to induce EC elongated shape in the absence of FSS. In Aim 1, micropattern-elongated EC (MPEC) shape and cytoskeletal structure were fully characterized and determined to be comparable to FSS-elongated ECs. Thus, inducing EC elongation on micropatterned lanes provides a platform for studying the functional consequences of EC shape, independent of FSS. Using this model, the following important markers of EC functions related to atherosclerosis were evaluated to determine the influence of EC shape and cytoskeletal alignment: extracellular matrix deposition (Aim 2), inflammatory function(Aim 3), and thrombotic potential (Aim 4). The results indicate that EC-elongated shape and cytoskeletal alignment participate in promoting selected EC functions that are protective against atherosclerosis, independent of FSS. Since EC shape is governed by the cytoskeleton, this data suggests that the cytoskeleton plays an active role in the regulation of EC functions that promote cardiovascular health.




Div. of Biomedical Engineering


School of Medicine



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