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Endothelial Glycocalyx

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    By Katherine Kozlowski (Medical Author and Contributor, Vein News and VeinsVeinsVeins.com)

    What is the endothelial glycocalyx? 

    The endothelium is the largest organ in the body and recent studies have shown that the endothelial glycocalyx (eGCX) plays a major role in health and disease states. The integrity of eGCX is vital for homoeostasis and disruption of its structure and function plays a major role in several pathologic conditions. 

    These bullet points were abstracted from a recent publication called The Role of Endothelial Glycocalyx in Health and Disease.

    The article is published by Yilmaz O, Afsar B, Ortiz A and Kanbay M.  Clin Kidney J.   2019;  12: 611-619. 


    1.  Acts as the exclusion zone between blood cells and endothelium.

    2.  The exact composition varies greatly according to the local microenvrionment

    3. Plays the main role in transvascular fluid exchange and fluid balance (acts as the 'molecular seive' for plasma proteins, forming the basis of the Starling principle and acting as the origin of the oncotic forces, which control the transcapillary movement of water)

    4. Modulates adhesion of inflammatory cells and platelets to the endothelial surface

    5. Functions as a sensor and mechanotransducer of the fluid shear forces

    6. Maintains blood rheology and damage leads to platelet activation (normally retains anticoagulation factors such as antithrombin)

    6. Plays a role in shear stress-dependent nitric oxide production

    7. Retains protective enzymes (e.g. superoxide dismutase)