The endothelium is a diaphanous membrane, only one cell layer thick, that lines all of our blood vessels. Despite its apparent fragility, it exerts profound control over vascular tone, structure, and intersection with circulating blood elements. One of the factors that the endothelium synthesizes is nitric oxide, which is the most potent endogenous vasodilator known. In addition to its blood flow regulating effects, nitric oxide also inhibits key processes in atherosclerosis, including monocyte adherence, platelet aggregation, and proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells. Nitric oxide synthesis is impaired, and its degradation is accelerated, in many of the conditions associated with atherosclerosis, including hypercholesterolemia. Restoration of nitric oxide synthesis and activity in these disorders can improve blood flow, relieve symptoms, and perhaps reduce the progression of atherosclerosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine