Smooth Muscle Cells Isolated from Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms Exhibit Increased Genomic Damage, but Similar Tendency for Apoptosis
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Aortic aneurysms (AA) are characterized by structural deterioration leading to progressive dilation. During the development of AA, two key structural changes are pronounced, one being degradation of extracellular matrix and the other loss of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) through apoptosis. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are produced above physiological levels in dilated (aneurismal) part of the aorta compared to the nondilated part and they are known to be associated with both the extracellular matrix degradation and the loss of SMCs. In this study, we hypothesized that aneurismal SMCs are more prone to apoptosis and that at least some cells undergo apoptosis due to elevated ROS in the aortic wall. To test this hypothesis, we first isolated SMCs from thoracic aneurismal tissue and compared their apoptotic tendency with normal SMCs in response to H2O2, oxidized sterol, or UV treatment. Exposed cells exhibited morphological changes characteristic of apoptosis, such as cell shrinkage, membrane blebbing, chromatin condensation, and DNA fragmentation. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferased UTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) further confirmed the fragmentation of nuclear DNA in these cells. Vascular SMCs were analyzed for their micronuclei (MN) and binucleate (BN) frequency as indicators of genomic abnormality. These data were then compared to patient parameters, including age, gender, hypertension, or aortic diameter for existing correlations. While the tendency for apoptosis was not significantly different compared to normal cells, both the %MN and %BN were higher in aneurismal SMCs. The data suggest that there is increased DNA damage in TAA samples, which might play a pivotal role in disease development.