The branching structure of the mammalian arterial tree has been known to be close to that of an optimal conduit system of the minimum work model characterized as the branch system of constant wall shear rate. The physiological mechanism producing such construction was considered to be based on the local response of arterial caliber induced by the wall shear stress (shear rate × blood viscosity) and thereby maintaining this stress constant, which was previously observed at the canine common carotid artery shunted to the external jugular vein. The stress levels at various parts of the arterial system estimated from available data fell within ±50% of the mean (15 dyn/cm2), which was consistent with the value predicted from the model. Theoretical analyses on the cost function of the model indicated that the suspected variation of shear rate levels in the arterial tree due to the anomalous changes in blood viscosity which might bring about 3- to 4-fold differences between the minimum and maximum shear rates would cause less than 10% increase in the total energy cost. It was concluded that a local adaptive response to wall shear stress is the mechanism which effectively optimizes the design of the arterial tree.
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