Atherosclerosis is a smoldering disease of the vasculature that can lead to the occlusion of the arteries, resulting in ischemia of the heart and brain. For many years, the asserted underlying mechanism of atherosclerosis, supported by its epidemiology, was based on the “cholesterol hypothesis” that people with high blood cholesterol are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This hypothesis instigated a vigorous search for treatment that yielded the generation of statins, which specifically reduce LDL cholesterol. Since then, statins have revolutionized the way people are treated for the prevention of atherosclerosis. Nonetheless, despite this potent class of drugs, cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death in many parts of the world, suggesting that additional mechanisms are involved in disease pathogenesis. Intensive research has revealed that the atherosclerotic plaque is enriched with leukocytes, and that macrophages constitute the majority of immune cells in the lesion. Monocytes/macrophages are now recognized as the prime immune cells involved in the development of atherosclerosis and are implicated to affect the size, composition and vulnerability of the atherosclerotic plaque. While many of the macrophage-derived pro-inflammatory mechanisms associated with atherogenesis have been characterized, such as cell adhesion, cytokine production and protease secretion, there is a dearth of drugs that specifically target innate immunity for treating patients with atherosclerosis. This review presents pre-clinical studies, and in most cases following clinical trials with antagonists and agonists that have been designed to counteract inflammation in atherosclerosis and associated diseases, highlighting targets expressed predominantly in monocytes.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2015 Bentham Science Publishers.
- Clinical trials