Recent advances on CD4+ T cells in atherosclerosis and its implications for therapy
Atherosclerosis is an arterial inflammatory disease and the primary cause of cardiovascular disease. T helper (Th) cells are an important part in atherosclerotic plaque as they can be either disease promoting or protective. A body of evidence points to a pro-atherosclerotic role of Th1 cells, whereas the role of Th2, Th17 and iNKT cells seems more complex and dependent on surrounding factors, including the developmental stage of the disease. Opposed to Th1 cells, there is convincing support for an anti-atherogenic role of Tregs. Recent data identify the plasticity of Th cells as an important challenge in understanding the functional role of different Th cell subsets in atherosclerosis. Much of the knowledge of Th cell function in atherosclerosis is based on findings from experimental models and translating this into human disease is challenging. Targeting Th cells and/or their specific cytokines represents an attractive option for future therapy against atherosclerosis, although the benefits and the risk of modulation of Th cells with these novel drug targets must first be carefully assessed.