Anitschkow cells (AC) are a peculiar type of stromal cells observed in myocardium, cardiac valves and coronary vessels wall whose origin, characterization and role remain controversial. In human heart, they represent a histological hallmark of Aschoff nodules in rheumatic fever, but they have also been observed in other myocardial pathologies. Firstly, they have been considered a myocyte-derived cells, but light microscopy, immunohistochemical and ultrastructural studies pointed out that a macrophagic/histiocytic origin cannot be excluded. Many authors also reported extracardiac AC or an Anitschkow nuclear pattern, thus suggesting that these cells may represent a chromatin pattern rather than a specific cell type. In veterinary medicine, AC were described in myocarditis, myocardial necrosis, degenerative and inflammatory endocardial diseases of several species. Recently, AC have been observed in intramural coronary arteries of different animals (including cattle and fish) affected by arteriosclerotic processes. Stress related to the intensive livestock farming could represent a mechanotransduction promoting factor of arteriosclerotic changes allowing the development of Anitschkow chromatin pattern. Further studies both in human and veterinary medicine are needed to confirm the origin and role of these peculiar cells.
Keywords: Anitschkow cells; adaptive reaction; cattle; heart; human.
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