Author(s): Sage AP, Tintut Y, Demer LL
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Abstract In the past decade, the prevalence, significance, and regulatory mechanisms of vascular calcification have gained increasing recognition. Over a century ago, pathologists recognized atherosclerotic calcification as a form of extraskeletal ossification. Studies are now identifying the mechanism of this remarkable process as a recapitulation of embryonic endochondral and membranous ossification through phenotypic plasticity of vascular cells that function as adult mesenchymal stem cells. These embryonic developmental programs, involving bone morphogenetic proteins and potent osteochondrogenic transcription factors, are triggered and modulated by a variety of inflammatory, metabolic, and genetic disorders, particularly hyperlipidemia, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, hyperparathyroidism, and osteoporosis. They are also triggered by loss of powerful inhibitors, such as fetuin A, matrix Gla protein, and pyrophosphate, which ordinarily restrict biomineralization to skeletal bone. Teleologically, soft-tissue calcification might serve to create a wall of bone to sequester noxious foci such as chronic infections, parasites, and foreign bodies. This Review focuses on atherosclerotic and medial calcification. The capacity of the vasculature to produce mineral in culture and to produce de novo, vascularized, trabecular bone and cartilage tissue, even in patients with osteoporosis, should intrigue investigators in tissue engineering and regenerative biology.
This article was published in Nat Rev Cardiol
and referenced in Journal of Cardiovascular Diseases & Diagnosis