20 February 2004
Although the use of stents has limited the incidence of restenosis, in-stent restenosis remains an important problem. In-stent restenosis is the result of a healing process that induced neointimal hyperplasia through mechanisms that are still not understood. The aim of this study was to analyze the histological consequences of the healing process following stent implantation. Internal mammary arteries from atheroslerotic patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery were stented and maintained in culture for 0–28 days. Stent implantation after predilatation induced an extensive loss of endothelial cells whereas direct stenting preserved endothelium between the struts. Morphometric analysis shows that stent placement induced neointimal thickening. Smooth muscle α-actin labeling indicates that neo-intimal formation was mainly due to proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells. Smooth muscle cell proliferation, assessed by MIB-1 staining, was maximal at day 14 after stent insertion. Human mammary artery organ culture thus provides valuable information on histological consequences of stent implantation with or without predilatation regarding endothelial cell disappearance and neointimal hyperplasia. These data also demonstrate that neointimal thickening induced by stent implantation comprises an intrinsic component resulting from the vessel wall response to stent insertion and suggest that blood factors could play an amplifying but not necessary role.