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Thromb Haemost. 2011 May;105 Suppl 1:S34-42. doi: 10.1160/THS10-11-0717. Epub 2011 Apr 11.

Update on lipids, inflammation and atherothrombosis.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Research Center, c/Sant Antoni Ma. Claret 167, Barcelona, Spain.


Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease that involves the arterial wall and is characterised by the progressive accumulation of lipids in the vessel wall. The first step is the internalisation of lipids (LDL) in the intima with endothelial activation which enhances the permeability of the endothelial layer and the expression of cytokines/chemokines and adhesion molecules. These events increase LDL particles accumulation in the extracellular matrix where they aggregate/fuse, are retained by proteoglycans and become targets for oxidative and enzymatic modifications. In turn, retained pro-atherogenic LDLs enhance selective leukocyte recruitment and attachment to the endothelial layer inducing their transmigration across the endothelium into the intima. While smooth muscle cell numbers decline with the severity of plaque progression, monocytes differentiate into macrophages, a process associated with the upregulation of pattern recognition receptors including scavenger receptors and Toll-like receptors leading to foam cell formation. Foam cells release growth factors, cytokines, metalloproteinases and reactive oxygen species all of which perpetuate and amplify the vascular remodelling process. In addition, macrophages release tissue factor that, upon plaque rupture, contributes to thrombus formation. Smooth muscle cells exposed in eroded lesions are also able to internalise LDL through LRP-1 receptors acquiring a pro-thrombotic phenotype and releasing tissue factor. Platelets recognise ligands in the ruptured or eroded atherosclerotic plaque, initiate platelet activation and aggregation leading to thrombosis and to the clinical manifestation of the atherothrombotic disease. Additionally, platelets contribute to the local inflammatory response and may also participate in progenitor cell recruitment.

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