Anna Hultgårdh, Professor
The artery wall is built up by three layers; intima, media, and adventitia. The medial layer is rich in vascular smooth muscle cells and extracellular matrix components. It provides mechanical strength to the vascular wall and regulates of blood flow through contraction.
The extracellular matrix in the medial layer is a highly organized network of proteins including collagens, proteoglycans and glycoproteins. In addition to providing strength to the vascular wall it is also of importance for regulation of smooth muscle cell function. During pathological conditions there are pronounced changes in the composition of the extracellular matrix. A key mechanism in this remodeling is when the smooth muscle cell changes from a contractile to a synthetic phenotype, resulting in a subsequent synthesis of different or altered extracellular matrix molecules.
Our research is focused on the involvement of the arterial smooth muscle cell and the extracellular matrix in the two diseases atherosclerosis and pulmonary hypertension. Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause for heart infarction and stroke, leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the Western world. Pulmonary hypertension means high blood pressure in the vessels in the lung. This is a serious condition where treatment options are limited.