Atherosclerosis is still the principal cause of morbidity and mortality in Western countries and although a significant progress has been made in the understanding of its pathophysiology, the determinants of atherosclerotic plaque instability are still poorly understood. The endothelium plays a pivotal role for the development, progression, and complication of atherosclerosis. Endothelial dysfunction is widely recognized as one of the early alteration in the vessel wall preceding the development of the plaque. However, considering the plethora of vascular functions which are regulated by endothelium, it plays a pivotal role throughout the atherosclerotic process and indeed the loss of endothelial cells, leading to plaque denudation, is one of the main causes of plaque complication. It is therefore conceivable that the maintenance of the endothelial layer physical continuity and function is crucial for the prevention of atherosclerosis. In the presence of cardiovascular risk factors, endothelial cells are continuously injured and repaired by the proliferation of resident cells and circulating endothelial progenitor cells. Indeed the number of circulating endothelial progenitor cells has been identified as an predictor of cardiovascular events. The increase in bone marrow release of endogenous progenitor cells or the enhancement of their homing in arterial denuded sites or in intravascular stent surface, are currently pursued to reduce atherosclerosis development/complication and intrastent restenosis, respectively. However, some challenges may arise from procedures enhancing endothelialization, including unwanted angiogenesis which may favor neoplasia progression and paradoxically atherosclerotic plaque expansion and complication.
Keywords: Endothelium, endothelialization, EPCs, atherosclerosis, arterial injury, stent
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