Ivanova EA, Orekhov AN.
Stem Cells Int. 2016;2016:7321404. doi: 10.1155/2016/7321404. Epub 2016 Jan 5.
Pericytes are pluripotent cells that can be found in the vascular wall of both microvessels and large arteries and veins. They have distinct morphology with long branching processes and form numerous contacts with each other and with endothelial cells, organizing the vascular wall cells into a three-dimensional network. Accumulating evidence demonstrates that pericytes may play a key role in the pathogenesis of vascular disorders, including atherosclerosis. Macrovascular pericytes are able to accumulate lipids and contribute to growth and vascularization of the atherosclerotic plaque. Moreover, they participate in the local inflammatory process and thrombosis, which can lead to fatal consequences. At the same time, pericytes can represent a useful model for studying the atherosclerotic process and for the development of novel therapeutic approaches. In particular, they are suitable for testing various substances' potential for decreasing lipid accumulation induced by the incubation of cells with atherogenic low-density lipoprotein. In this review we will discuss the application of cellular models for studying atherosclerosis and provide several examples of successful application of these models to drug research.