Our circulatory system is composed of numerous elements that are responsible for transport of blood and delivery of essential nutrients and gases to vital downstream tissues. Among these components that make up our circulation is vascular smooth muscle (VSM), the primary muscular and contractile element of blood vessels and regulator of many blood vessel functions. This is of particular importance as cardiovascular disease (CVD), the number one killer of individuals in America and worldwide, is primarily vascular in origin. Logically, identifying and characterizing feasible targets that could control CVD are highly appealing and much desired. With this in mind and given its centrality in control of vascular physiology, VSM has gained wide attention as a plausible target to combat elements of CVD. This book chapter focuses on VSM as a potential therapeutic target against CVD and will provide overview of vascular anatomy and physiology and brief discussions about the pivotal roles of VSM in CVD pathology, the influence of abnormal blood flow mechanics and hemodynamics in CVD, neural control of VSM and the vasculature, and possible novel cellular and molecular signaling targets that could be used to control and/or minimize CVD. This chapter hopes to serve as a valuable resource for basic and applied scientists as well as clinicians interested in understanding the crucial roles that VSM plays in vessel physiology and pathology.
Part of the book: Muscle Cell and Tissue