Atherosclerosis is a disease of chronic inflammation, characterized by a dysfunctional interplay between the immune apparatus and lipids. Immune cells, as well as nonimmune cells, drive plaque inflammation through a complex crosstalk of inflammatory mediators. The cells are activated by risk factor–induced triggers, which are present in the circulation and in the vessel wall, such as shear stress, oxidized lipoproteins and oxidative stress. Without relief from risk factors, the activation of inflammatory processes persists, resulting in a chronic nonresolving inflammation. Inflammation is associated with severity of disease, and complex lesions, which are prone to rupture and cause acute events, are characterized by extensive inflammation. Thus, inflammation is an active driver of atherosclerotic plaque development and a risk factor for atherosclerotic events. It is therefore of utmost importance to understand the mechanisms behind these inflammatory processes and to be able to develop new diagnostics and treatment modalities for atherosclerotic disorders. This chapter provides a brief overview of the most important inflammatory players and processes during atherosclerotic plaque development and of possible therapeutic targets to combat atherosclerotic disease.
Part of the book: Atherosclerosis