Evidence for the presence of early vascular lesions in newborn Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic (WHHL) rabbits

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      We have investigated the morphology of the aortic wall of newborn New Zealand White (NZW) (n = 10) and newborn Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic (WHHL) (n = 10) rabbits. In both strains, lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides) were elevated above the concentrations expected. This was particularly evident in WHHL. The morphology of the aortas of NZW rabbits suggested an intensive biosynthetic and bioenergetic activity of endothelium. This was most evident in areas where blood flow underwent division. No major abnormalities were noted in the endothelium or subendothelium. In newborn WHHL rabbits, leucocyte adhesion (usually monocytes) to endothelium and migration into the subendothelium was apparent, particularly on the aortic arch and around areas of dividing blood flow in the thoracic aorta. Tuberous raised structures were present in low numbers and distributed randomly on the aortic wall. Endothelial cells had elevated nuclear zones projecting into the vessel lumen. At regions of blood flow division, endothelium was polygonal in shape and silver staining of cell borders was more intense. Fatty streaks were present at blood flow divisions and micro-plaque was seen. Transmission electron microscopy of fatty streak-like areas showed the presence of up to two layers of smooth muscle cells and in some areas, lipidladen macrophages were seen. The presence of atherosclerotic lesions in newborn WHHL rabbits suggests that the process may commence in utero.


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