Effects of withdrawing an atherogenic diet on the atherosclerotic plaque in rabbits
- Lijun Zhao
- Shifang Zhang
- Qiaoli Su
- Shuangqing Li
Affiliations: Department of General Practice, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan 610041, P.R. China, Department of Pulmonary Disease, Institute of Respiratory Disease, Chengdu Second People's Hospital, Chengdu, Sichuan 610000, P.R. China
- Published online on: May 12, 2021 https://doi.org/10.3892/etm.2021.10183
Copyright: © Zhao
et al. This is an open access article distributed under the
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Lifestyle interventions and pharmacotherapy are the most common of non‑invasive treatments for atherosclerosis, but the individual effect of diet on plaques remains unclear. The current study aimed to investigate the effect of withdrawing the atherogenic diet on plaque in the aortas of rabbits. Experimental atheroma was induced in 33 rabbits using a 1% high cholesterol diet for 30 days (H‑30 d) or 90 days (H‑90 d, baseline group). After 90 days of the atherogenic diet, the remaining animals were divided into four groups: A total of 10 rabbits continued to consume the atherogenic diet for 50 days (H‑90 d & H‑50 d; n=5) or 140 days (H‑90 d & H‑140 d; n=5). Another 13 rabbits were switched to a chow diet for 50 days (H‑90 d & C‑50 d; n=7) or 140 days (H‑90 d & C‑140 d; n=6). A total of 10 age‑matched rabbits in the control groups were fed a chow diet for 90 and 230 days, respectively. The en face or cross‑sectional plaque areas were determined using oil red O staining and elastic van Gieson staining. Immunohistochemistry analyses were used to assess the macrophages or smooth muscle cell contents. When fed an atherogenic diet for 90 days, the rabbits' abdominal aortas exhibited severe atherosclerotic lesions (the median en face plaque area was 63.6%). After withdrawing the atherogenic diet, the plaque area did not shrink with feeding the chow diet compared with the baseline, but increased to 71.8 or 80.5% after 50 or 140 days, respectively. After removing cholesterol from the diet, the lipids content in the plaques increased during the first 50 days, and then decreased compared with the baseline group. Furthermore, withdrawing the atherogenic diet increased the total collagen content and the percentage of the smooth muscle cells, alleviated macrophage infiltration, decreased the vulnerable index and promoted the cross‑linking of collagen. Feeding the rabbits an atherogenic diet followed by removal of cholesterol from the diet did not lead to the regression of established lesions but instead delayed the progression of the lesions and promoted the stabilization of the plaque.