Interleukin-17: friend or foe in atherosclerosis?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To summarize the current knowledge on the origin and physiological function of T helper 17 (Th17) and discuss the contrasting results pertaining to the role of Th17 and interleukin-17 (IL-17) in atherosclerosis.

Recent findings

Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory arterial disease driven by both innate and adaptive immune responses to modified lipoproteins. Although initial studies have focused on the role of Th1 and Th2 responses in atherosclerosis, more recent findings identified atheroprotective roles for several subsets of regulatory T cells. Th17 represents a new T-cell lineage with important roles in the clearance of pathogenic bacteria and fungi. The increase of Th17 and IL-17 has been recently linked to the pathogenesis of several autoimmune diseases. However, its role in chronic inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis remains poorly understood. The few studies available on this topic have generated contrasting results, which could be attributed to different approaches used on various mouse models.

Summary

IL-17 seems to have a modulatory role in atherosclerosis. Future studies are needed to better determine the molecular mechanisms involved in this regulation and examine whether targeting IL-17 pathway will be useful to treat cardiovascular diseases.

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