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Cover Story: Targets & Mechanisms: Muscling in on atherosclerosis

Why targeting standard macrophages misses the mark in atherosclerosis

By Stephen Parmley, Senior Writer

A finding from the University of Virginia overturning assumptions about the biology of atherosclerotic plaques could prompt companies to rethink their therapeutic strategies for the disease. Using a series of in vitro and in vivo studies, the team showed that about one third of the cells in plaques are of smooth muscle rather than immune cell origin, and proposed that going after the pathology of the smooth muscle cells could provide a new class of therapies to prevent heart attacks and stroke.

The dogma in the field has long been that atherosclerotic plaques have many more macrophages and monocyte-derived cells than smooth muscle cells, and companies have approached atherosclerosis as a chronic inflammatory disease.

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