Atherosclerosis: the interplay between lipids and immune cells

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality worldwide. The underlying cause of the majority of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis. In the past, atherosclerosis was considered to be the result of passive lipid accumulation in the vessel wall. However, today's picture of the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis is much more complex, with a key role for immune cells and inflammation in conjunction with hyperlipidemia, especially elevated (modified) LDL levels. Knowledge on immune cells and immune responses in atherosclerosis has progressed tremendously over the past decades, and the same is true for the role of lipid metabolism and the different lipid components. However, it is largely unknown how lipids and the immune system interact. In this review, we will describe the effect of lipids on immune cell development and function, and the effects of immune cells on lipid metabolism.

Recent findings

Recently, novel data have emerged that show that immune cells are affected, and behave differently in a hyperlipidemic environment. Moreover, immune cells have reported to be able to affect lipid metabolism.

Summary

In this review, we will summarize the latest findings on the interactions between lipids and the immune system, and we will discuss the potential consequences of these novel insights for future therapies for atherosclerosis.

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