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Circ Res. 2001 Oct 26;89(9):763-71.

Novel clinical markers of vascular wall inflammation.

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  • 1Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Inflammatory processes play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and mediate many of the stages of atheroma development from initial leukocyte recruitment to eventual rupture of the unstable atherosclerotic plaque. Elevated plasma levels of several markers of the inflammatory cascade have been shown to predict future risk of plaque rupture. These markers include P-selectin, interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1, and C-reactive protein (CRP). Produced in the liver in response to interleukin-6, CRP has emerged as the most powerful inflammatory marker of future cardiovascular risk. Initially considered an innocent bystander in the atherosclerotic process, recent evidence suggests that CRP may have direct proinflammatory effects. Numerous large-scale, prospective studies have found that elevated baseline levels of CRP are a strong independent predictor of future vascular risk. Furthermore, aspirin and statin therapy appear to be particularly effective among individuals with high CRP levels. The addition of CRP screening to traditional lipid testing has the potential to identify individuals at high risk for future cardiovascular events who may benefit from targeted preventive interventions.

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