Adaptive Response of T and B Cells in Atherosclerosis

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Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that is initiated by the retention and accumulation of cholesterol-containing lipoproteins, particularly low-density lipoprotein, in the artery wall. In the arterial intima, lipoprotein components that are generated through oxidative, lipolytic, and proteolytic activities lead to the formation of several danger-associated molecular patterns, which can activate innate immune cells as well as vascular cells. Moreover, self- and non-self-antigens, such as apolipoprotein B-100 and heat shock proteins, can contribute to vascular inflammation by triggering the response of T and B cells locally. This process can influence the initiation, progression, and stability of plaques. Substantial clinical and experimental data support that the modulation of adaptive immune system may be used for treating and preventing atherosclerosis. This may lead to the development of more selective and less harmful interventions, while keeping host defense mechanisms against infections and tumors intact. Approaches such as vaccination might become a realistic option for cardiovascular disease, especially if they can elicit regulatory T and B cells and the secretion of atheroprotective antibodies. Nevertheless, difficulties in translating certain experimental data into new clinical therapies remain a challenge. In this review, we discuss important studies on the function of T- and B-cell immunity in atherosclerosis and their manipulation to develop novel therapeutic strategies against cardiovascular disease.

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