Immunological and Fibrotic Mechanisms in Cardiac Allograft Vasculopathy

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Cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV) has a high prevalence among patients that have undergone heart transplantation. Cardiac allograft vasculopathy is a multifactorial process in which the immune system is the driving force. In this review, the data on the immunological and fibrotic processes that are involved in the development of CAV are summarized. Areas where a lack of knowledge exists and possible additional research can be completed are pinpointed. During the pathogenesis of CAV, cells from the innate and the adaptive immune system cooperate to reject the foreign heart. This inflammatory response results in dysfunction of the endothelium and migration and proliferation of smooth muscle cells (SMCs). Apoptosis and factors secreted by both the endothelium as well as the SMCs lead to fibrosis. The migration of SMCs together with fibrosis provoke concentric intimal thickening of the coronary arteries, which is the main characteristic of CAV.

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