Inflammatory Mechanisms: The Molecular Basis of Inflammation and Disease


  • Peter Libby MD

    Corresponding author
    1. Mallinckrodt Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
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Inflammation participates importantly in host defenses against infectious agents and injury, but it also contributes to the pathophysiology of many chronic diseases. Interactions of cells in the innate immune system, adaptive immune system, and inflammatory mediators orchestrate aspects of the acute and chronic inflammation that underlie diseases of many organs. A coordinated series of common effector mechanisms of inflammation contribute to tissue injury, oxidative stress, remodeling of the extracellular matrix, angiogenesis, and fibrosis in diverse target tissues. Atherosclerosis provides an example of a chronic disease that involves inflammatory mechanisms. Recruitment of blood leukocytes characterizes the initiation of this disease. Its progression involves many inflammatory mediators, modulated by cells of both innate and adaptive immunity. The complications of established atheroma, including plaque disruption and thrombosis, also intimately involve inflammation. Mastery of the inflammatory response should aid the development of novel strategies to predict disease susceptibility, target and monitor therapies, and ultimately develop new approaches to the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases associated with aging, such as atherosclerosis.