Adequate function of the microcirculation is vital to any tissue. To maintain an optimal function, microvascular networks must be able to adapt structurally to changes in the physical environment. Here we present a mathematical network model based on vessel wall mechanics. We assume based on experimental observations that longstanding change in transmural pressure elicits a change in the vascular wall-to-lumen ratio for maintaining circumferential wall stress at a certain level. In addition, experimental observations show that chronic change in fluid shear stress at the vascular wall elicits a persistent change in luminal diameter. On this basis we hypothesize that wall influencing substances released from the endothelium in response to shear stress have a certain optimal level in the vascular wall. Deviation from this level will cause vascular remodeling, i.e. a structural change in luminal diameter, until equilibrium is restored. The model explains several of the key features observed experimentally in the microcirculation in normotension and hypertension. Most importantly, it suggests a scenario where overall network structure and network hemodynamics depend on adaptation to local hemodynamic stimuli in the individual vessel. Simulated results show emanating microvascular networks with properties similar to those observed in vivo. The model points to an altered endothelial function as a key factor in the development of vascular changes characteristic of hypertension.
Keywords: Adaptation, Physiological; Algorithms; Biomechanics; Capillaries; Computer Simulation; Endothelium, Vascular; Hemodynamics; Humans; Hypertension; Microcirculation; Models, Biological; Perfusion