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Development of intimal thickening of coronary arteries over the lifetime of Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., fed different lipid sources

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The objective of the present study was to investigate the development of intimal changes of coronary arteries over the lifetime of farmed Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., fed either a 100% fish oil or a 100% vegetable oil blend. The study was performed as a randomized observer blinded controlled trial with parallel group design. At the start of the project, the fish were divided in two groups and sampled at five different time points throughout their life span. The total study sample consisted of 259 healthy fish. Serial sections were taken from the coronary artery lying on the bulbus arteriosus for histopathological evaluation and for area measurements using semi-quantitative and quantitative methods. The earliest onset of vascular changes was detected in fish from both groups in the freshwater stage prior to smoltification. The mean range lesion (MRL), used to describe the severity of the lesions observed, increased significantly for both groups from sea transfer throughout the study period. Comparison of the two groups based on the overall material corrected for time of sampling did not show any difference (P = 0.20) between the two groups with regard to MRL. The percentage lumen loss (PLL) measured by a quantitative method and used as a measure to indicate lesion severity showed an incremental, non-significant increase from week 72 to week 92 and further to week 115 in both diet groups during the seawater phase. Comparison of the groups corrected for time of sampling indicated a difference of PLL in favour of VO (P = 0.02). Heart weight, body weight and body length were all positively and significantly correlated to Log MRL. The partial correlation analysis indicated that heart weight was the most dominant variable in the set. Early vascular changes were found in the major bifurcation of the coronary artery at the apex and beyond the flow divider into the daughter branches. The latter represented the dominant changes and were found throughout the entire lifecycle of the fish. Increasing in size over time they formed pads or cushions that were regularly located close to the outer walls of the bifurcation. The origin of the cells forming the intimal thickening has not been conclusively determined, but immunohistochemical findings indicate a smooth muscle cell origin, possibly of a myointimal type. Our findings suggest there is no correlation between diet and intimal changes. The severity of the changes, MRL and PLL, of the coronary vessels correlate with heart weight and fish weight growth and growth rate and mechanical factors are implicated in intimal development, but rather than being induced by external injury due to the location of the coronaries, haemodynamic factors and low shear stress are proposed as the main mechanism behind these changes.
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Keywords: Atlantic salmon; coronary arteries; intimal thickening; polyunsaturated fatty acids

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1:  Department of Basic Sciences and Aquatic Medicine, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo, Norway 2:  Department of Pathology, Aker University Hospital, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway 3:  Department of Production Animal Clinical Sciences, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo, Norway 4:  Skretting Aquaculture Research Centre AS, Stavanger, Norway 5:  National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research, Bergen,Norway

Publication date: 01 June 2008

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