How radiation influences atherosclerotic plaque development: a biophysical approach in ApoE(-/-) mice

Astrid Kloosterman*, Teun van Dillen, Harmen Bijwaard, Sylvia Heeneman, Saske Hoving, Fiona A. Stewart, Fieke Dekkers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Atherosclerosis is the development of lipid-laden plaques in arteries and is nowadays considered as an inflammatory disease. It has been shown that high doses of ionizing radiation, as used in radiotherapy, can increase the risk of development or progression of atherosclerosis. To elucidate the effects of radiation on atherosclerosis, we propose a mathematical model to describe radiation-promoted plaque development. This model distinguishes itself from other models by combining plaque initiation and plaque growth, and by incorporating information from biological experiments. It is based on two consecutive processes: a probabilistic dose-dependent plaque initiation process, followed by deterministic plaque growth. As a proof of principle, experimental plaque size data from carotid arteries from irradiated ApoE mice was used to illustrate how this model can provide insight into the underlying biological processes. This analysis supports the promoting role for radiation in plaque initiation, but the model can easily be extended to include dose-related effects on plaque growth if available experimental data would point in that direction. Moreover, the model could assist in designing future biological experiments on this research topic. Additional biological data such as plaque size data from chronically-irradiated mice or experimental data sets with a larger variety in biological parameters can help to further unravel the influence of radiation on plaque development. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first biophysical model that combines probabilistic and mechanistic modeling which uses experimental data to investigate the influence of radiation on plaque development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-431
Number of pages9
JournalRadiation and Environmental Biophysics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Mathematical modeling
  • ApoE(-/-) mice
  • Ionizing radiation
  • HDL

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