Apoptosis in the vascular wall and atherosclerosis
Apoptosis, programmed cell death, has emerged as a key element in the complex pathophysiology underlying the development as well as the progression of atherosclerosis. A number of recent reports provided evidence for both in vivo and in vitro occurrence of apoptotic cell death of vascular cells, namely endothelial cells, macrophages, and vascular smooth muscle cells. In addition, functional studies in disease models underscore the relevance of these findings for the understanding of processes which lead to lesion development, plaque rupture, and thrombus formation. Pathomechanistic in vitro investigations provided an increasingly detailed picture of the involved intracellular signaling pathways that regulate onset and execution of apoptosis. These insights offer the potential of therapeutic interventions targeted to interfere with the molecular processes involving apoptotic cell death in the vascular wall.
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