Anti-inflammatory therapies for atherosclerosis

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Abstract

The view of atherosclerosis as an inflammatory disease has emerged from observations of immune activation and inflammatory signalling in human atherosclerotic lesions, from the definition of inflammatory biomarkers as independent risk factors for cardiovascular events, and from evidence of low-density lipoproteine induced immune activation. Studies in animal models of hyperlipidaemia have also supported the beneficial effects of countering inflammation to delay atherosclerosis progression. Specific inflammatory pathways with relevance to human diseases have been identified, and inhibitors of these pathways are either already in use for the treatment of other diseases, or are under development and evaluation. These include ‘classic’ drugs (such as allopurinol, colchicine, and methotrexate), biologic therapies (for example tumour necrosis factor inhibitors and IL-1 neutralization), as well as targeting of lipid mediators (such as phospholipase inhibitors and antileukotrienes) or intracellular pathways (inhibition of NADPH oxidase, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, or phosphodiesterase). The evidence supporting the use of anti-inflammatory therapies for atherosclerosis is mainly based on either observational or small interventional studies evaluating surrogate markers of disease activity. Nevertheless, these data are crucial to understand the role of inflammation in atherosclerosis, and to design randomized controlled studies to evaluate the effect of specific anti-inflammatory strategies on cardiovascular outcomes.

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