Atherosclerosis is a specific type of arteriosclerosis, a multifactorial pathology that affects arteries. In atherosclerosis, the build-up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances leads to atheromatous plaque, causing a reduction in the flexibility, elasticity, and fluid capacity of arteries. Atherosclerosis promotes coronary artery disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and/or kidney disease, although the condition might be asymptomatic for years.
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- Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are lipid-activated transcription factors that regulate lipid and lipoprotein metabolism, glucose homeostasis and inflammation. The PPAR family consists of three proteins, α, β/δ and γ. Recent data suggest that PPARα and γ activation decreases atherosclerosis progression not only by correcting metabolic disorders, but also through direct effects on the vascular wall. PPARs modulate the recruitment of leukocytes to endothelial cells, control the inflammatory response and lipid homeostasis of monocytes/macrophages and regulate inflammatory cytokine production by smooth muscle cells. Experiments using animal models of atherosclerosis and clinical studies in humans strongly support an anti-atherosclerotic role for PPARα and γ in vivo. Thus, PPARs remain attractive therapeutic targets for the development of drugs used in the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis. Future research will aim for the development of more potent drugs with co-agonist activity on PPARα, PPARβ/δ and/or PPARγ as well as tissue and target gene-selective PPAR receptor modulators (SPPARMs).
- Atherosclerosis, formerly considered a bland lipid storage disease, actually involves an ongoing inflammatory response. Recent advances in basic science have established a fundamental role for inflammation in mediating all stages of this disease from initiation through progression and, ultimately, the thrombotic complications of atherosclerosis. These new findings provide important links between risk factors and the mechanisms of atherogenesis. Clinical studies have shown that this emerging biology of inflammation in atherosclerosis applies directly to human patients. Elevation in markers of inflammation predicts outcomes of patients with acute coronary syndromes, independently of myocardial damage. In addition, low-grade chronic inflammation, as indicated by levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein, prospectively defines risk of atherosclerotic complications, thus adding to prognostic information provided by traditional risk factors. Moreover, certain treatments that reduce coronary risk also limit inflammation. In the case of lipid lowering with statins, this anti-inflammatory effect does not appear to correlate with reduction in low-density lipoprotein levels. These new insights into inflammation in atherosclerosis not only increase our understanding of this disease, but also have practical clinical applications in risk stratification and targeting of therapy for this scourge of growing worldwide importance.
- Experimental work has elucidated molecular and cellular pathways of inflammation that promote atherosclerosis. Unraveling the roles of cytokines as inflammatory messengers provided a mechanism whereby risk factors for atherosclerosis can alter arterial biology, and produce a systemic milieu that favors atherothrombotic events. The discovery of the immune basis of allograft arteriosclerosis demonstrated that inflammation per se can drive arterial hyperplasia, even in the absence of traditional risk factors. Inflammation regulates aspects of plaque biology that trigger the thrombotic complications of atherosclerosis. Translation of these discoveries to humans has enabled both novel mechanistic insights and practical clinical advances.
- The clinical manifestations of atherosclerosis are nowadays the main cause of death in industrialized countries, but atherosclerotic disease was found in humans who lived thousands of years ago, before the spread of current risk factors. Atherosclerotic lesions were identified on a 5300-year-old mummy, as well as in Egyptian mummies and other ancient civilizations. For many decades of the twentieth century, atherosclerosis was considered a degenerative disease, mainly determined by a passive lipid storage, while the most recent theory of atherogenesis is based on endothelial dysfunction. The importance of inflammation and immunity in atherosclerosis’s pathophysiology was realized around the turn of the millennium, when in 1999 the famous pathologist Russell Ross published in the New England Journal of Medicine an article entitled “Atherosclerosis – an inflammatory disease”. In the following decades, inflammation has been a topic of intense basic research in atherosclerosis, albeit its importance has ancient scientific roots. In fact, in 1856 Rudolph Virchow was the first proponent of this hypothesis, but evidence of the key role of inflammation in atherogenesis occurred only in 2017. It seemed interesting to retrace the key steps of atherosclerosis in a historical context: from the teachings of the physicians of the Roman Empire to the response-to-injury hypothesis, up to the key role of inflammation and immunity at various stages of disease.
- Atherosclerosis, the principal cause of heart attack, stroke and gangrene of the extremities, is responsible for 50% of all mortality in the USA, Europe and Japan. The lesions result from an excessive, inflammatory-fibroproliferative response to various forms of insult to the endothelium and smooth muscle of the artery wall. A large number of growth factors, cytokines and vasoregulatory molecules participate in this process. Our ability to control the expression of genes encoding these molecules and to target specific cell types provides opportunities to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic agents to induce the regression of the lesions and, possibly, to prevent their formation.
- The lesions of atherosclerosis are responsible for changes in the heart that can lead to myocardial infarction, in the brain to cerebral infarction or stroke, and in the peripheral vasculature to gangrene and loss of function. Lesions of atherosclerosis represent the principal cause of death in the United States, Europe, and part of Asia ... The advanced lesions of atherosclerosis, the sources of these potentially disastrous clinical events, consist of an extensive inflammatory, fibroproliferative response that intrudes into the lumen of the affected artery, compromises the flow of blood and, thus, oxygen to the affected part, and leads to clinical sequelae. The lesions represent a culmination of interactions between two types of leukocytes, circulating blood monocytes and T lymphocytes, that interact with the lining endothelium, enter into the artery wall, and have the potential to release various bioactive molecules. Ultimately, these interactions result in the migration and proliferation of smooth muscle cells, which elaborate connective tissue within the intima of the affected artery and produce the advanced lesions of atherosclerosis. Platelet mural thrombi and, later, occlusive thrombi can markedly affect the progress of the disease and lead to sudden death. Thus three cellular components in the circulation—monocytes, T lymphocytes, and platelets—together with two cells of the artery wall—endothelium and smooth muscle—interact in multiple ways to generate the lesions of atherosclerosis.