Throughout the last two decades inflammation has been recognized as the central mechanism underlying atherogenesis. A multitude of basic science work demonstrates the pivotal role of inflammatory processes during every step of atherosclerotic plaque formation: From initiation via propagation to complication. This review describes some of the key mechanisms involved with a particular focus on the diverse group of inflammatory cells and their subsets that distinctly contribute to atherogenic and anti-atherogenic phenomena. Furthermore, we summarize the controlling action of a tight network of co-stimulatory molecules and cytokines orchestrating the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effector functions. Finally, the current status of clinical trials evaluating anti-inflammatory/immune-modulatory treatment strategies is summarized and an outlook for future therapeutic implications is provided.
Keywords: Atherosclerosis; clinical trials; inflammation; inflammatory cells; mechanisms.