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Department of Biomedical Engineering; Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Zinc is an essential trace element having various structural, catalytic and regulatory interactions with an estimated 3000 proteins. Zinc has drawn recent attention for its use, both as pure metal and alloyed, in arterial stents due to its biodegradability, biocompatibility, and low corrosion rates. Previous studies have demonstrated that zinc metal implants prevent the development of neointimal hyperplasia, which is a common cause of restenosis following coronary intervention. This suppression appears to be smooth muscle cell-specific, as reendothelization of the neointima is not inhibited. To better understand the basis of zinc's differential effects on rat aortic smooth muscle (RASMC) versus endothelial (RAENDO) cells, we conducted a transcriptomic analysis of both cell types following one-week continuous treatment with 5 µM or 50 µM zinc. This analysis indicated that genes whose protein products regulate mitochondrial functions, including oxidative phosphorylation and fusion/fission, are differentially affected by zinc in the two cell types. To better understand this, we performed Seahorse metabolic flux assays and quantitative imaging of mitochondrial networks in both cell types. Zinc treatment differently affected energy metabolism and mitochondrial structure/function in the two cell types. For example, both basal and maximal oxygen consumption rates were increased by zinc in RASMC but not in RAENDO. Zinc treatment increased apparent mitochondrial fusion in RASMC cells but increased mitochondrial fission in RAENDO cells. These results provide some insight into the mechanisms by which zinc treatment differently affects the two cell types and this information is important for understanding the role of zinc treatment in vascular cells and improving its use in biodegradable metal implants.

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Biomaterials and Biosystems

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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