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Warfarin exposure and calcification of the arterial system in the rat


ProF. W. S. Webster Department of Anatomy and Histology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Fax: +61 2 9351 6556; E-mail: billweb@anatomy.


There is evidence from knock-out mice that the extrahepatic vitamin K-dependent protein, matrix gla protein, is necessary to prevent arterial calcification. The aim of this study was to determine if a warfarin treatment regimen in rats, designed to cause extra-hepatic vitamin K deficiency, would also cause arterial calcification. Sprague-Dawley rats were treated from birth for 5–12 weeks with daily doses of warfarin and concurrent vitamin K1. This treatment causes an extrahepatic vitamin K deficiency without affecting the vitamin K-dependent blood clotting factors. At the end of treatment the rats were killed and the vascular system was examined for evidence of calcification. All treated animals showed extensive arterial calcification. The cerebral arteries and the veins and capillaries did not appear to be affected. It is likely that humans on long-term warfarin treatment have extrahepatic vitamin K deficiency and hence they are potentially at increased risk of developing arterial calcification.