Understanding mechanobiology in cultured endothelium: A review of the orbital shaker method

Warboys, C M and Ghim, M and Weinberg, P D (2019) Understanding mechanobiology in cultured endothelium: A review of the orbital shaker method. ATHEROSCLEROSIS, 285. pp. 170-177.

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Abstract

A striking feature of atherosclerosis is its highly non-uniform distribution within the arterial tree. This has been attributed to variation in the haemodynamic wall shear stress (WSS) experienced by endothelial cells, but the WSS characteristics that are important and the mechanisms by which they lead to disease remain subjects of intensive investigation despite decades of research. In vivo evidence suggests that multidirectional WSS is highly atherogenic. This possibility is increasingly being studied by culturing endothelial cells in wells that are swirled on an orbital shaker. The method is simple and cost effective, has high throughput and permits chronic exposure, but interpretation of the results can be difficult because the fluid mechanics are complex; hitherto, their description has largely been restricted to the engineering literature. Here we review the findings of such studies, which indicate that putatively atherogenic flow characteristics occur at the centre of the well whilst atheroprotective ones occur towards the edge, and we describe simple mathematical methods for choosing experimental variables that avoid resonance, wave breaking and uncovering of the cells. We additionally summarise a large number of studies showing that endothelium cultured at the centre of the well expresses more pro-inflammatory and fewer homeostatic genes, has higher permeability, proliferation, apoptosis and senescence, and shows more endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition than endothelium at the edge. This simple method, when correctly interpreted, has the potential to greatly increase our understanding of the homeostatic and pathogenic mechanobiology of endothelial cells and may help identify new therapeutic targets in vascular disease.