Mechanics of the Endothelium in Blood Flow

  • Y. C. Fung
  • S. Q. Liu


The endothelium is a single layer of confluent endothelial cells covering the entire inner wall of the heart and blood vessels. It is a mono layer (i. e. no cell stays on the back of another) resting on a collagenous basal lamina, with a thickness of from 2 to 5 μm, the higher spots reveling the cell nuclei. The endothelium separates blood from tissue. It’s importance to the circulation is somewhat analogous to the skin to a man, the roof to a house, the semipermeable membrane of a reverse osmosis water desalination plant, i. e., it separates; filtrates, and controls the mass transport between the tissue and the blood. It carries enzymes, and manufactures many of them, which control the clotting of blood, dissolution of clots, adhesion of leukocytes or cancer cells, passage of LDL, growth of new blood vessels, as well as inhibition of growth. Molecular biology of the endothelial cells responding to the shear stress of the flowing blood is advancing very rapidly. Paper by P.F. Davies (10, 11, 12), D.F. Dewey, Jr. (13, 55) J.A. Frangos (15), M.A. Gimbrone, Jr. (10, 55, 56). Kuo et. al. (38), Levesque et. al. (40), L.V. McIntire (18, 50), Nerem et. al. (49), Resnick et. al. (56), Sato et. al. (62, 63). Smiesko and Johnson (71), and others have opened up a new vista to biology. It has been found that the locally produced growth factors include the growth promotors such as the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), (30, 44, 59), and the vascular endothelium-derived growth factor (VEFG), (26, 28, 47, 48, 60), and the growth inhibitors such as the endothelium-derived relaxation factor (EDRF) nitric oxide (5, 37, 46). Evidences are mounting that hypertension induces up-regulation of growth promoting substances and their receptors (Sarzani et. al. (59), and down-regulation of growth inhibitory factors EDRF and prostacyclin (Luscher et. al. (43), Panza et. al. (52)). It is established that gene expressions are functions of stress and strain, (Resnick et. al. (56), Shyy et. al. (66), and cell integrity, growth, and differentiation are influenced by stress and strain (Ingber et. al. (31, 32))


Endothelial Cell Shear Stress Tensile Stress Side Wall Cell Content 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Y. C. Fung
    • 1
  • S. Q. Liu
    • 1
  1. 1.University of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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