Purpose of review: Atherosclerosis is now considered a chronic inflammatory disease. Oxidative stress induced by generation of excess reactive oxygen species has emerged as a critical, final common mechanism in atherosclerosis. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are a group of small reactive molecules that play critical roles in the regulation of various cell functions and biological processes. Although essential for vascular homeostasis, uncontrolled production of ROS is implicated in vascular injury. Endogenous anti-oxidants function as checkpoints to avoid these untoward consequences of ROS, and an imbalance in the oxidant/anti-oxidant mechanisms leads to a state of oxidative stress. In this review, we discuss the role of ROS and anti-oxidant mechanisms in the development and progression of atherosclerosis, the role of oxidized low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and highlight potential anti-oxidant therapeutic strategies relevant to atherosclerosis.
Recent findings: There is growing evidence on how traditional risk factors translate into oxidative stress and contribute to atherosclerosis. Clinical trials evaluating anti-oxidant supplements had failed to improve atherosclerosis. Current studies focus on newer ROS scavengers that specifically target mitochondrial ROS, newer nanotechnology-based drug delivery systems, gene therapies, and anti-miRNAs. Synthetic LOX-1 modulators that inhibit the effects of Ox-LDL are currently in development. Research over the past few decades has led to identification of multiple ROS generating systems that could potentially be modulated in atherosclerosis. Therapeutic approaches currently being used for atheroslcerotic vascular disease such as aspirin, statins, and renin-angiotensin system inhibitors exert a pleiotropic antioxidative effects. There is ongoing research to identify novel therapeutic modalities to selectively target oxidative stress in atherosclerosis.
Keywords: Anti-oxidants; Atherosclerosis; LOX-1; OxLDL; Oxidative stress; Reactive oxygen species.