Atherosclerosis is a pathological process that takes place in the major arteries and is the underlying cause of heart attacks, stroke and peripheral artery disease. The earliest detectable lesions, called fatty streaks, contain macrophage foam cells that are derived from recruited monocytes. More-advanced atherosclerotic lesions, called fibro-fatty plaques, are the result of continued monocyte recruitment and smooth muscle cell migration and proliferation. Variable numbers of CD4+ T cells are found in atherosclerotic lesions, and cytokines secreted by T helper 1 (Th1)- or Th2-type cells can have a profound influence on macrophage gene expression within atherosclerotic plaques. This review briefly addresses the key features of macrophage biology and discusses the factors that influence the growth and development of atherosclerotic lesions (atherogenesis). It then considers the potential role of chemokines in mediating monocyte recruitment and macrophage differentiation within atherosclerotic lesions.
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