The formation and accumulation of crystalline material in tissues is a hallmark of many metabolic and inflammatory conditions. The discovery that the phase transition of physiologically soluble substances to their crystalline forms can be detected by the immune system and activate innate immune pathways has revolutionized our understanding of how crystals cause inflammation. It is now appreciated that crystals are part of the pathogenesis of numerous diseases, including gout, silicosis, asbestosis, and atherosclerosis. In this review we discuss current knowledge of the complex mechanisms of crystal formation in diseased tissues and their interplay with the nutrients, metabolites, and immune cells that account for crystal-induced inflammation.
Keywords: air pollution; cardiovascular diseases; gout; interleukin-1; malaria; nanotechnology.