Excessive intimal hyperplasia in human coronary arteries before intimal lipid depositions is the initiation of coronary atherosclerosis and constitutes a therapeutic target

Drug Discov Today. 2016 Oct;21(10):1578-1595. doi: 10.1016/j.drudis.2016.05.017. Epub 2016 Jun 2.


The consensus hypothesis on coronary atherosclerosis suggests high LDL-C levels as the major cause and pursues it as the therapeutic target, explicitly assuming: (i) tunica intima of human coronaries consists of only one cell layer - endothelium, situated on a thin layer of scarcely cellular matrix; and (ii) subendothelial lipoprotein retention initiates the disease. Facts showed: (i) normal tunica intima invariably consists of multiple cellular layers; and (ii) initial lipid depositions occurred in the deepest layers of tunica intima. This review suggests that coronary atherosclerosis starts with pathological intimal expansion, resulting in intimal hypoxia and neovascularization from adventitial vasa vasorum, facilitating lipoprotein extraction by previously avascular deep intimal tissues. Until the hypothesis incorporates real knowledge, our efforts will probably be off-target.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Artery Disease / metabolism
  • Coronary Artery Disease / pathology*
  • Coronary Vessels / metabolism
  • Coronary Vessels / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / metabolism
  • Hyperplasia / pathology*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Tunica Intima / metabolism
  • Tunica Intima / pathology*