J Theor Biol 2014 Oct 8;358:1-10. Epub 2014 May 8.
Institute of Biomechanics, Graz University of Technology, Kronesgasse 5-I, 8010 Graz, Austria. Electronic address:
Physiological loading in large elastic arteries is considered to be mainly carried by the passive components of the media but it is not known how much the contraction of the smooth muscle cells is actually involved in the load carrying. Smooth muscle contraction is considered to occur in a relatively slow time domain but the contraction is able to produce significant tension. In the present work the role of smooth muscle contraction in large elastic arteries is investigated by analyzing how changes in the intracellular calcium, and thereby the active tone of smooth muscle cells, influence the deformation and stress behavior; different intracellular calcium functions and medial wall thicknesses with cycling internal pressure are studied. In particular, a recently proposed mechanochemical model (Murtada et al., 2012. J. Theor. Biol. 297, 176-186), which links intracellular calcium with mechanical contraction and an anisotropic model representing the elastin/collagen composite, was implemented into a 3D finite element framework. Details of the implementation procedure are described and a verification of the model implementation is provided by means of the isometric contraction/relaxation analysis of a medial strip at optimal muscle length. In addition, numerically obtained pressure-radius relationships of arterial rings modeled with one and two layers are analyzed with different geometries and at different calcium levels; a comparison with the Laplace equation is provided. Finally, a two-layer arterial ring is loaded with a realistic pressure wave and with various intracellular calcium functions (different amplitudes and mean values) and medial wall thicknesses; residual stresses are considered. The finite element results show that changes in the calcium amplitudes hardly have an influence on the current inner ring radius and the circumferential stress. However, an increase in the mean intracellular calcium value and the medial wall thickness leads to a clear influence on the deformation and the stress behavior.