Age-related changes in plaque composition: A study in patients suffering from carotid artery stenosis

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Abstract

Objective: The extent of atherosclerotic plaque burden and the incidence of atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular events accelerate with increasing age. The composition of the plaque is associated with plaque thrombosis and acute coronary occlusion. Surprisingly, however, the relation between advancing age and atherosclerotic plaque composition is still unclear. In the present study, we investigated the association between plaque characteristics and advancing age in a population of patients with haemodynamically significant carotid artery stenosis. Methods: Patients (N=383), ages 39-89 years, underwent carotid endarterectomy (CEA). Morphometric analysis was performed on the dissected atherosclerotic plaques to study the prevalence of fibrous and atheromatous plaques. Picro sirius red, haematoxylin eosin, alfa actin and CD68 stainings were performed to investigate the extent of collagen, calcification, smooth muscle cells and macrophages in carotid plaques, respectively. The presence of metalloproteinases-2 and -9 was assessed by ELISA. Results: With aging, a decrease in fibrous plaques and an increase in atheromatous plaques were observed. This was accompanied by an age-associated decrease in smooth muscle cell content in carotid plaques. Macrophage content slightly increased with age. In addition, total matrix metalloprotease (MMP)-2 was negatively and MMP-9 positively related with age. Differences in plaque phenotype were most prominent for the youngest age quartile compared with older age quartiles. Conclusions: With increasing age, the morphology of atherosclerotic plaques from patients with carotid artery stenosis changes. Plaques become more atheromatous and contain less smooth muscle cells with increasing age. Local inflammation and MMP-9 levels slightly increased with age in plaques obtained from patients suffering from haemodynamically significant advanced atherosclerotic lesions. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Van Oostrom, O., Velema, E., Schoneveld, A. H., De Vries, J. P. P. M., De Bruin, P., Seldenrijk, C. A., … Pasterkamp, G. (2005). Age-related changes in plaque composition: A study in patients suffering from carotid artery stenosis. Cardiovascular Pathology, 14(3), 126–134. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carpath.2005.03.002

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