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Circ Res. 2011 Apr 29;108(9):1133-45. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.110.226936.

The emerging role of innate immunity in the heart and vascular system: for whom the cell tolls.

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  • 1Center for Cardiovascular Research, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Recent studies suggest that the heart possesses an innate immune system that is intended to delimit tissue injury, as well as orchestrate homoeostatic responses, within the heart. The extant literature suggests that this intrinsic stress response system is mediated, at least in part, by a family of pattern recognition receptors, most notably the Toll-like receptors. Although the innate immune system provides a short-term adaptive response to tissue injury, the beneficial effects of this phylogenetically ancient system may be lost if innate immune signaling becomes sustained and/or excessive; in which case, the salutary effects of activation of these pathways are contravened by the known deleterious effects of inflammatory signaling. Herein, the biology of innate immune signaling in the heart is reviewed, as well as the literature suggesting that the innate immune system is involved in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, acute coronary syndromes, stroke, viral myocarditis, sepsis, ischemia/reperfusion injury, and heart failure. The review concludes by discussing new therapies that are being developed to modulate the innate immune system.

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