Inflammatory cytokines in atherosclerosis: current therapeutic approaches

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Abstract

The notion of atherosclerosis as a chronic inflammatory disease has intensified research on the role of cytokines and the way these molecules act and interact to initiate and sustain inflammation in the microenvironment of an atherosclerotic plaque. Cytokines are expressed by all types of cells involved in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, act on a variety of targets exerting multiple effects, and are largely responsible for the crosstalk among endothelial, smooth muscle cells, leucocytes, and other vascular residing cells. It is now understood that widely used drugs such as statins, aspirin, methotrexate, and colchicine act in an immunomodulatory way that may beneficially affect atherogenesis and/or cardiovascular disease progression. Moreover, advancement in pharmaceutical design has enabled the production of highly specific antibodies against key molecules involved in the perpetuation of the inflammatory cascade, raising hope for advances in the treatment of atherosclerosis. This review describes the actions and effects of these agents, their potential clinical significance, and future prospects.

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