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Atherosclerosis and thrombosis 

Atherosclerosis and thrombosis
Atherosclerosis and thrombosis

Lina Badimon

and Gemma Vilahur



Update on role of monocyte and macrophage in atherosclerotic plaque formation.

Update on contribution of microparticles to thrombus growth and as potential systemic biomarkers of thrombus dynamics.

Update on contribution of neutrophils to thrombus formation and propagation.

Discussion on systems biology and the role of ‘-omics’ in CVD prevention and treatment.

Updated Figure 40.1

Added 19 new references; added 5 new further readings; deleted 4 further readings.

Updated on 22 February 2018. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 09 July 2020

Atherosclerosis is the main underlying cause of heart disease. The continuous exposure to cardiovascular risk factors induces endothelial activation/dysfunction which enhances the permeability of the endothelial layer and the expression of cytokines/chemokines and adhesion molecules. This results in the accumulation of lipids (low-density lipoprotein particles) in the intimal layer and the triggering of an inflammatory response. Accumulated low-density lipoprotein particles attached to the extracellular matrix suffer modifications and become pro-atherogenic, enhancing leucocyte recruitment and further transmigration across the endothelium into the intima. Infiltrated pro-atherogenic monocytes (mainly Mon2) differentiate into macrophages which acquire a specialized phenotypic polarization (protective/M1 or harmful/M2), depending on the stage of the atherosclerosis progression. Once differentiated, macrophages upregulate pattern recognition receptors capable of engulfing modified low-density lipoprotein, leading to foam cell formation. Foam cells release growth factors and cytokines that promote vascular smooth muscle cell migration into the intima, which then internalize low-density lipoproteins via low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein-1 receptors becoming foam cells. As the plaque evolves, the number of vascular smooth muscle cells decline, whereas the presence of fragile/haemorrhagic neovessels and calcium deposits increases, promoting plaque destabilization. Disruption of this atherosclerotic lesion exposes thrombogenic surfaces rich in tissue factor that initiate platelet adhesion, activation, and aggregation, as well as thrombin generation. Platelets also participate in leucocyte and progenitor cell recruitment are likely to mediate atherosclerosis progression. Recent data attribute to microparticles a modulatory effect in the overall atherothrombotic process and evidence their potential use as systemic biomarkers of thrombus growth. This chapter reviews our current understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms involved in atherogenesis, highlights platelet contribution to thrombosis and atherosclerosis progression, and provides new insights into how atherothrombosis may be prevented and modulated.

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