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Chistiakov DA, Orekhov AN, Bobryshev YV.

Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2014 Dec 17. doi: 10.1111/apha.12438. [Epub ahead of print]



Atherosclerosis is a continuous pathological process that starts early in life and progresses frequently to unstable plaques. Plaque rupture leads to deleterious consequences such as acute coronary syndrome, stroke and atherothrombosis. The vulnerable lesion has several structural and functional hallmarks that distinguish it from the stable plaque. The unstable plaque has large necrotic core (over 40% plaque volume) composed of cholesterol crystals, cholesterol esters, oxidized lipids, fibrin, erythrocytes and their remnants (haeme, iron, haemoglobin), and dying macrophages. The fibrous cap is thin, depleted of smooth muscle cells and collagen, and is infiltrated with proinflammatory cells. In unstable lesion, formation of neomicrovessels is increased. These neovessels have weak integrity and leak thereby leading to recurrent haemorrhages. Haemorrhages deliver erythrocytes to the necrotic core where they degrade promoting inflammation and oxidative stress. Inflammatory cells mostly presented by monocytes/macrophages, neutrophils and mast cells extravagate from bleeding neovessels and infiltrate adventitia where they support chronic inflammation. Plaque destabilization is an evolutionary process that could start at early atherosclerotic stages and whose progression is influenced by many factors including neovascularization, intraplaque haemorrhages, formation of cholesterol crystals, inflammation, oxidative stress and intraplaque protease activity.

© 2014 Scandinavian Physiological Society. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


arterial wall; atherogenesis; atherosclerosis; atherosclerotic plaque; inflammation; neovascularization