Abstract

Nicotine exposure is a major risk factor for several cardiovascular diseases. Although the deleterious effects of nicotine on aortic remodeling processes have been studied to some extent, the biophysical consequences are not fully elucidated. In this investigation, we applied quasi-static and dynamic loading to quantify ways in which exposure to nicotine affects the mechanical behavior of murine arterial tissue. Segments of thoracic aortas from C57BL/6 mice exposed to 25 mg/kg/day of subcutaneous nicotine for 28 days were subjected to uniaxial tensile loading in an open-circumferential configuration. Comparing aorta segments from nicotine-treated mice relative to an equal number of control counterparts, stiffness in the circumferential direction was nearly twofold higher (377 kPa ± 165 kPa versus 191 kPa ± 65 kPa, n = 5, p = 0.03) at 50% strain. Using a degradative power-law fit to fatigue data at supraphysiological loading, we observed that nicotine-treated aortas exhibited significantly higher peak stress, greater loss of tension, and wider oscillation band than control aortas (p ≤ 0.01 for all three variables). Compared to simple stress relaxation tests, fatigue cycling is shown to be more sensitive and versatile in discerning nicotine-induced changes in mechanical behavior over many cycles. Supraphysiological fatigue cycling thus may have broader potential to reveal subtle changes in vascular mechanics caused by other exogenous toxins or pathological conditions

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