Inflammation at the molecular interface of atherogenesis: an anthropological journey

Am J Pathol. 2008 Nov;173(5):1253-64. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2008.080442.


Despite the multifactorial nature of atherosclerosis, substantial evidence has established inflammation as an often surreptitious, yet critical and unifying driving force which promotes disease progression. To this end, research has defined molecular networks initiated by cytokines, growth factors and other pro-inflammatory molecules which promote hallmarks of atherosclerosis such as endothelial dysfunction, macrophage infiltration, LDL oxidation, cell proliferation and thrombosis. Although commonly associated with risk factors such as dyslipidemia, diabetes and hypertension, the global etiology of atherosclerosis may be alternatively attributed to underlying anthropological pressures. The agricultural, industrial and technological revolutions produced alterations in dietary, social and economic factors which have collectively exaggerated the exposure of the human genome to environmental stimuli. Furthermore, advances in sanitation, nutrition, and medicine have increased the lifespan of humans, effectively prolonging blood vessel exposure to these factors. As a result, the vasculature has become conditioned to respond to injury with what is arguably an overzealous immunological response; thus setting the stage for the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, including atherosclerotic plaque development in Western populations. Evidence suggests that each of these alterations can be linked to specific mediators in the inflammatory process. Integration of these factors with an inflammation-based hypothesis of atherosclerosis has yet to be extrapolated to observations in the realms of basic and clinical sciences and is the focus of this review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology*
  • Atherosclerosis / genetics
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology*
  • Atherosclerosis / therapy
  • Diet
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Motor Activity