Hyperhomocysteinemia increases intimal hyperplasia in a rat carotid endarterectomy model

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This preliminary study investigated the ability to elevate the serum homocysteine (H[e]) levels and investigated the increases in postoperative neointimal hyperplasia (IH) in an environment with hyperhomocysteinemia and the resultant restenosis in a rat carotid endarterectomy (CEA) model.


The 9 rats for the control group were fed rat chow, and the 8 rats for the H(e) group were fed H(e)-supplemented rat chow for 2 weeks before and after CEA. The animals underwent anesthesia, and a left common CEA was performed. After 14 days, the serum H(e) levels were measured and the left carotid artery was harvested and elastin stained. Morphometric measurements were used to calculate the area of stenosis of the lumen. The mean and the standard deviation of the mean were determined. The 2 groups were compared with the Mann-Whitney test and a linear regression model. Three additional rats per group were studied, with carotid artery sectioning with double immunohistochemical staining for 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and α-smooth muscle (α-SM) actin.


The serum H(e) level in the H(e) group was 36.32 μmol/L ± 15.28, and in the control group the level was 5.53 μmol/L ± 2.06 (P = .0007). IH presented as percent lumen stenosis was 21.89% ± 4.82% in the H(e) group and 4.82% ± 1.64% in the control group (P = .0007). The linear regression model of the serum H(e) levels and the percent stenosis showed a linear relationship (r2 = .72). The α-SM actin staining revealed that nearly all of the cells in the IH area were of smooth muscle or myofibroblast origin and that 10.1% ± 2.6% of the cells were stained for BrdU in the control group versus 23% ± 7.1% in the H(e) group. Also, 9.3% ± 2.6% of the cells in the IH area were stained for BrdU and for α-SM actin versus 19.1% ± 5.6% stained for both BrdU and α-SM actin in the H(e) group.


This is the first study to examine IH after CEA and hyperhomocysteinemia in rats. The study shows that the elevation of serum H(e) levels can be obtained by feeding rats modified diets with added H(e). The consistent elevation of serum H(e) levels was associated with more than 4 times the amount of IH after a CEA in a rat model.

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