This review focuses on the role of cytokines and growth factors involved in the regulation of smooth muscle cells in an atherosclerotic plaque. As a plaque begins to develop, upon endothelial injury inflammatory cells within the lesion interact with the accumulating LDL, other inflammatory cells and smooth muscle cells and release cytokines and growth factors. The mediators released from the activated cells regulate the proliferation and/or survival of smooth muscle cells. This determines the stability and integrity of a plaque. New data emerging from various studies have provided novel insights into many of the cellular interactions and signaling mechanisms involving apoptosis of smooth muscle cells in the atherosclerotic plaques. A number of these studies, focusing on activation of inflammatory cells and the roles of chemokines, cytokines and growth factors, are addressed in this review.
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