Atherosclerosis makes ‘Mikado’ out of blood vessels

The fibers of arteries with atherosclerosis (hardening of the wall) are not neatly arranges across the vessel, but follow a multidirectional structure. PhD candidate Chen-Ket Chai at TU/e, who worked together with Erasmus University Medical Center on a biomechanical model to predict ruptures in blood vessels with sclerosis, saw this effect more or less unexpectedly on special MRI images. The cause still has to be investigated. Chai will gain his PhD on 28 January.

Chai observed this effect of irregular fiber orientation in all nine patients who he examined.

The rupturing of arteries with sclerosis is the most important cause of heart attacks and strokes. For this reason the hardened parts of arteries – or plaques – are frequently removed by operations. Eighty percent of these operations later prove to be unnecessary, because the plaques were found to be stable. Chai found in his study that plaques of which the cap had grown by less than twenty percent were in principle stable. This knowledge may later enable the number of operations to be reduced.