Hemodynamic shear stress is defined as the physical force exerted by the continuous flow of blood in the vascular system. Endothelial cells, which line the inner layer of blood vessels, sense this physiological force through mechanotransduction signaling and adapt to maintain structural and functional homeostasis. Hemodynamic flow, shear stress and mechanotransduction signaling are, therefore, an integral part of endothelial pathophysiology. Although this is a well-established concept in the cardiovascular field, it is largely dismissed in studies aimed at understanding radiation injury to the endothelium and subsequent cardiovascular complications. We and others have reported on the differential response of the endothelium when the cells are under hemodynamic flow shear compared with static culture. Further, we have demonstrated significant differences in the gene expression of static versus shear-stressed irradiated cells in four key pathways, reinforcing the importance of shear stress in understanding radiation injury of the endothelium. This article further emphasizes the influence of hemodynamic shear stress and the associated mechanotransduction signaling on physiological functioning of the vascular endothelium and underscores its significance in understanding radiation injury to the vasculature and associated cardiac complications. Studies of radiation effect on endothelial biology and its implication on cardiotoxicity and vascular complications thus far have failed to highlight the significance of these factors. Factoring in these integral parts of the endothelium will enhance our understanding of the contribution of the endothelium to radiation biology. Without such information, the current approaches to studying radiation-induced injury to the endothelium and its consequences in health and disease are limited.
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Vol. 186 • No. 2