Emergence of Collagen Orientation Heterogeneity in Healing Infarcts and an Agent-Based Model.
Spatial heterogeneity of matrix structure can be an important determinant of tissue function. Although bulk properties of collagen structure in healing myocardial infarcts have been characterized previously, regional heterogeneity in infarct structure has received minimal attention. Herein, we quantified regional variations of collagen and nuclear orientations over the initial weeks of healing after infarction in rats, and employed a computational model of infarct remodeling to test potential explanations for the heterogeneity we observed in vivo. Fiber and cell orientation maps were generated from infarct samples acquired previously at 1, 2, 3, and 6 weeks postinfarction in a rat ligation model. We analyzed heterogeneity by calculating the dot product of each fiber or cell orientation vector with every other fiber or cell orientation vector, and plotting that dot product versus distance between the fibers or cells. This analysis revealed prominent regional heterogeneity, with alignment of both fibers and cell nuclei in local pockets far exceeding the global average. Using an agent-based model of fibroblast-mediated collagen remodeling, we found that similar levels of heterogeneity can spontaneously emerge from initially isotropic matrix via locally reinforcing cell-matrix interactions. Specifically, cells that sensed fiber orientation at a distance or remodeled fibers at a distance by traction-mediated reorientation or aligned deposition gave rise to regionally heterogeneous structures. However, only the simulations in which cells deposited collagen fibers aligned with their own orientation reproduced experimentally measured patterns of heterogeneity across all time points. These predictions warrant experimental follow-up to test the role of such mechanisms in vivo and identify opportunities to control heterogeneity for therapeutic benefit.
Richardson, WJ; Holmes, JW
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