Alwin de Jong, MSc
Most recent publications
Interfering in the ALK1 Pathway Results in Macrophage-Driven Outward Remodeling of Murine Vein Grafts
Vein grafts are frequently used to bypass coronary artery occlusions. Unfortunately, vein graft disease (VGD) causes impaired patency rates. ALK1 mediates signaling by TGF-β TGFβR2 or BMP9/10 BMPR2, which is an important pathway in fibrotic, inflammatory, and angiogenic processes in vascular diseases. The role of the TGF-β pathway in VGD is previously reported, however, the contribution of ALK1 signaling is not known. Therefore, we investigated ALK1 signaling in VGD in a mouse model for vein graft disease using either genetic or pharmacological inhibition of the Alk1 signaling.
Inhibition of microRNA-494-3p activates Wnt signaling and reduces proinflammatory macrophage polarization in atherosclerosis
We have previously shown that treatment with third-generation antisense oligonucleotides against miR-494-3p (3GA-494) reduces atherosclerotic plaque progression and stabilizes lesions, both in early and established plaques, with reduced macrophage content in established plaques. Within the plaque, different subtypes of macrophages are present. Here, we aimed to investigate whether miR-494-3p directly influences macrophage polarization and activation. Human macrophages were polarized into either proinflammatory M1 or anti-inflammatory M2 macrophages and simultaneously treated with 3GA-494 or a control antisense (3GA-ctrl). We show that 3GA-494 treatment inhibited miR-494-3p in M1 macrophages and dampened M1 polarization, while in M2 macrophages miR-494-3p expression was induced and M2 polarization enhanced. The proinflammatory marker CCR2 was reduced in 3GA-494-treated atherosclerosis-prone mice. Pathway enrichment analysis predicted an overlap between miR-494-3p target genes in macrophage polarization and Wnt signaling. We demonstrate that miR-494-3p regulates expression levels of multiple Wnt signaling components, such as LRP6 and TBL1X. Wnt signaling appears activated upon treatment with 3GA-494, both in cultured M1 macrophages and in plaques of hypercholesterolemic mice. Taken together, 3GA-494 treatment dampened M1 polarization, at least in part via activated Wnt signaling, while M2 polarization was enhanced, which is both favorable in reducing atherosclerotic plaque formation and increasing plaque stability.
Extracellular vesicles enriched with an endothelial cell pro-survival microRNA affects skin tissue regeneration
Endothelial cell (EC) activity is essential for tissue regeneration in several (patho)physiological contexts. However, our capacity to deliver biomolecules capable of controlling EC fate is relatively limited. Here, we screened a library of microRNA (miR) mimics and identified 25 miRs capable of enhancing the survival of ECs exposed to ischemia-mimicking conditions. , we showed that miR-425-5p, one of the hits, was able to enhance EC survival and migration. , using a mouse Matrigel plug assay, we showed that ECs transfected with miR-425-5p displayed enhanced survival compared with scramble-transfected ECs. Mechanistically, we showed that miR-425-5p modulated the PTEN/PI3K/AKT pathway and inhibition of miR-425-5p target genes (, , , and ) phenocopied the pro-survival. For the delivery of miR-425-5p, we modulated small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) with miR-425-5p and showed, , that miR-425-5p-modulated sEVs were (1) capable of enhancing the survival of ECs exposed to ischemia-mimic conditions, and (2) efficiently internalized by skin cells. Finally, using a streptozotocin-induced diabetic wound healing mouse model, we showed that, compared with miR-scrambled-modulated sEVs, topical administration of miR-425-5p-modulated sEVs significantly enhanced wound healing, a process mediated by enhanced vascularization and skin re-epithelialization.
von Willebrand Factor: A Central Regulator of Arteriovenous Fistula Maturation Through Smooth Muscle Cell Proliferation and Outward Remodeling
Background Arteriovenous fistula (AVF) maturation failure is a main limitation of vascular access. Maturation is determined by the intricate balance between outward remodeling and intimal hyperplasia, whereby endothelial cell dysfunction, platelet aggregation, and vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) proliferation play a crucial role. von Willebrand Factor (vWF) is an endothelial cell-derived protein involved in platelet aggregation and VSMC proliferation. We investigated AVF vascular remodeling in vWF-deficient mice and vWF expression in failed and matured human AVFs. Methods and Results Jugular-carotid AVFs were created in wild-type and vWF mice. AVF flow was determined longitudinally using ultrasonography, whereupon AVFs were harvested 14 days after surgery. VSMCs were isolated from vena cavae to study the effect of vWF on VSMC proliferation. Patient-matched samples of the basilic vein were obtained before brachio-basilic AVF construction and during superficialization or salvage procedure 6 weeks after AVF creation. vWF deficiency reduced VSMC proliferation and macrophage infiltration in the intimal hyperplasia. vWF mice showed reduced outward remodeling (1.5-fold, =0.002) and intimal hyperplasia (10.2-fold, <0.0001). AVF flow in wild-type mice was incremental over 2 weeks, whereas flow in vWF mice did not increase, resulting in a two-fold lower flow at 14 days compared with wild-type mice (=0.016). Outward remodeling in matured patient AVFs coincided with increased local vWF expression in the media of the venous outflow tract. Absence of vWF in the intimal layer correlated with an increase in the intima-media ratio. Conclusions vWF enhances AVF maturation because its positive effect on outward remodeling outweighs its stimulating effect on intimal hyperplasia.
Visualization of Murine Vascular Remodeling and Blood Flow Dynamics by Ultra-High-Frequency Ultrasound Imaging
Vein grafts (VGs) are used to bypass atherosclerotic obstructions and arteriovenous fistulas (AVFs) as vascular access for hemodialysis. Vascular remodeling governs post-interventional arterialization, but may also induce VG and AVF failure. Although the endpoint characteristics of vascular remodeling are known, the in vivo process and the role of blood flow dynamics has not been fully studied. Therefore, here we non-invasively quantify vascular remodeling and blood flow alterations over time in murine VG and AVF models. C57BL/6J ( = 7, chow diet) and atherosclerosis-prone ApoE3*Leiden ( = 7) mice underwent VG surgery. Ultrasound imaging was performed at 3, 7, 14, 21, and 28 days post-surgery. C57BL/6J mice ( = 8) received AVF surgery. Ultrasound imaging was performed at 7 and 14 days post-surgery. The luminal volume increased by 42% in the VGs of C57BL/6J and 38% in the VGs of ApoE3*Leiden mice at 28 days relative to 3 days post-surgery. Longitudinally, an 82% increase in wall volume and 76% increase in outward remodeling was found in the ApoE3*Leiden mice, with a constant wall size in C57BL/6J mice. Proximally, the pulsatility index, resistive index, and peak systolic velocity decreased longitudinally in both groups. Distally, the maximum acceleration increased with 56% in C57BL/6J VGs. Among the AVFs, 50% showed maturation after 7 days, based on a novel flow-criterium of 23 mL/min. Distinct flow patterns were observed at the anastomotic site and inflow artery of the AVFs relative to the control carotid arteries. Vascular remodeling can be quantified by ultra-high-frequency ultrasound imaging over time in complex animal models, via three-dimensional structural parameters and site-specific hemodynamic indices.