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High-dose synthetic progestogens inhibit foam and smooth muscle cell proliferation and atherosclerotic plaque formation in aortas of rabbits fed a hypercholesterolemic diet

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      Abstract

      Female rabbits on a hypercholesterolemic atherogenic diet were treated with high doses of the synthetic progestogens norethisterone and medroxyprogesterone acetate in order to clarify the effect and possibly some of the mechanism of action of these hormones on diet-induced atherogenesis. We employed morphometric studies to determine the surface area of the rabbit aorta occupied by and the maximum thickness of lipid plaques. Autoradiography with tritiated thymidine was performed to demonstrate the effect of the progestogens on cell proliferation, which plays a key role in atherogenesis. Medroxyprogesterone acetate-treated and, above all, norethisterone-treated animals exhibit a more marked reduction of atherosclerosis than control rabbits fed the same diet. Our results suggest that both progestogens we used inhibit the development of atherosclerosis mainly by blocking the proliferation of smooth muscle cells in the tunica media and the cell population of the plaque.

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