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Am J Primatol. 2009 Sep;71(9):766-75. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20722.

Primate models in women's health: inflammation and atherogenesis in female cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis).

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Wake Forest University Primate Center, Department of Pathology, Section on Comparative Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157-1040, USA.


Female cynomolgus monkeys are excellent models for understanding cardiovascular disease and the relationships between inflammatory processes and conditions such as atherogenesis. This review summarizes published research findings obtained through comprehensive, multidisciplinary, multi-investigator studies in nonhuman primates over the past two decades. These studies examined the effects of exogenous estrogens and dietary soy protein/isoflavones (IFs) on atherosclerosis, circulating biomarkers, and tissue inflammation in pre- and postmenopausal female cynomolgus monkeys. Inflammation may play a role in the initiation and progression of disease, be a consequence of the disease, or both. Circulating and tissue biomarkers with inflammatory and anti-inflammatory characteristics (including adhesion molecules such as e-selectin, VCAM-1, and ICAM-1, chemokines such as MCP-1, cytokines such as interleukins, and acute phase reactants such as CRP, and others) may be useful indicators of disease status. Treatment of postmenopausal subjects with estrogen resulted in significant reductions in several key inflammatory mediators as well as atherosclerosis, while dietary IF had a more limited effect on inflammation and atherogenesis. Circulating concentrations of key inflammatory proteins, including monocyte-chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), were associated with atherosclerosis and lesion characteristics in these animals. In premenopausal female monkeys, a diet enriched in soy protein reduced arterial inflammation as well as atherogenesis in comparison to a diet enriched in casein-lactalbumin. Expression levels of arterial inflammation associated genes (MCP-1, ICAM-1) and markers for inflammatory cell types (macrophages and T cells) correlated with plaque size, were differentially influenced by treatments, and represent potential targets for interventions. Arterial expression of estrogen receptor alpha, the key mediator of estrogenic effects, was inversely correlated with plaque size and indices of inflammation, suggestive of an atheroprotective role. The findings provide additional evidence that circulating inflammatory markers (particularly MCP-1) may be useful indicators of atherosclerotic disease progression and responses to treatment in female primates, and that estrogens and dietary soy may inhibit atherogenesis in part through anti-inflammatory mechanisms.

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