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Curr Cardiol Rev. 2008 Aug;4(3):170-8. doi: 10.2174/157340308785160624.

Mast cells: pivotal players in cardiovascular diseases.

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Division of Biopharmaceutics, Leiden/Amsterdam Center for Drug Research, Leiden University, Gorlaeus Laboratories, Einsteinweg 55, 2333 CC, Leiden, The Netherlands.


The clinical outcome of cardiovascular diseases as myocardial infarction and stroke are generally caused by rupture of an atherosclerotic plaque. However, the actual cause of a plaque to rupture is not yet established. Interestingly, pathology studies have shown an increased presence of the mast cell, an important inflammatory effector cell in allergy and host defense, in (peri)vascular tissue during plaque progression, which may point towards a causal role for mast cells. Very recent data in mouse models show that mast cells and derived mediators indeed can profoundly impact plaque progression, plaque stability and acute cardiovascular syndromes such as vascular aneurysm or myocardial infarction. In this review, we discuss recent evidence on the role of mast cells in the progression of cardiovascular disorders and give insight in the therapeutic potential of modulation of mast cell function in these processes to improve the resilience of a plaque to rupture.


Cardiovascular diseases; aneurysm.; atherosclerosis; mast cell; plaque stability; proteases

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