Multiphase Modelling of Fibrous Cap Formation in Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is characterised by the growth of fat-filled plaques in the artery wall. In advanced disease, vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) enter the plaque and deposit a cap of fibrous tissue over the fatty plaque core. The fibrous cap isolates the thrombogenic plaque material from the bloodstream and prevents the formation of blood clots that cause heart attacks or strokes. Despite the important protective role of the cap, the mechanisms that regulate cap formation and maintenance remain poorly understood. In particular, it is unclear why certain caps become thick and stable, while others become thin and vulnerable to rupture. In this talk, I will discuss my recent work on modelling the dynamics of cap formation. The models use multiphase PDEs with non-standard boundary conditions to simulate SMC migration and plaque tissue remodelling in response to diffusible chemical signals. The model results reproduce several observations from experiments in atherosclerosis-prone mice and provide novel insight into the relationship between cap stability and cap region SMC numbers. I will use these findings to stimulate a broad discussion about hypothesised mechanisms of cap rupture.
Dr Mike Watson, University of Sydney