The need to identify and characterize vulnerable atherosclerotic lesions in humans has lead to the development of various animal models of plaque vulnerability. In this review, current concepts of the vulnerable plaque as it leads to an acute coronary event are described, such as plaque rupture, erosion, intraplaque hemorrhage and neovascularization. Recently developed animal models that have attempted to reproduce these concepts are described and evaluated based on their suitability in the study of vulnerable plaques. Although certain features of plaque vulnerability have been reported in animal models, a model encompassing all aspects of the vulnerable plaque is lacking.
Keywords: intravascular ultrasound, smooth muscle cell, matrix metalloproteinases, phagocytes, atherosclerosis
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