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The Role of Vascular Cell Senescence in Atherosclerosis: Antisenescence as a Novel Therapeutic Strategy for Vascular Aging

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Vascular cells have a finite lifespan when cultured in vitro and eventually enter an irreversible growth arrest called “cellular senescence.” It has been reported that many of the changes in senescent vascular cell behavior are consistent with the changes seen in age-related vascular diseases. Recently, senescent vascular cells have been demonstrated in human atherosclerotic lesions but not in non-atherosclerotic lesions. Moreover, these cells express increased levels of proinflammatory molecules and decreased levels of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, suggesting that cellular senescence in vivo contributes to the pathogenesis of human atherosclerosis. One widely discussed hypothesis of senescence is the telomere hypothesis. An increasing body of evidence has established the critical role of the telomere in vascular cell senescence. Introduction of telomere malfunction has been shown to lead to vascular dysfunction that promotes atherogenesis, whereas telomere lengthening extends cell lifespan and protects against vascular dysfunction associated with senescence. Indeed, recent studies have demonstrated that telomere attrition occurs in the blood vessels and is associated with human atherosclerosis. More recent evidence suggests that telomere-independent mechanisms are implicated in vascular cell senescence. Activation of Ras, an important signaling molecule involved in atherogenic stimuli, induces vascular cell senescence and thereby, promotes vascular inflammation in vitro and in vivo. Although a causal link between vascular aging and vascular cell senescence remains elusive, a large body of data is consistent with cellular senescence contributing to age-associated vascular disorders. This review considers the clinical relevance of vascular cell senescence in vivo and discusses the potential of antisenescence therapy for human atherosclerosis.
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Keywords: aging; atherosclerosis; senescence; telomere

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Department of Cardiovascular Science and Medicine, Chiba University Graduate School of Medicine, 1-8- 1 Inohana, Chuo-ku, Chiba 260-8670, Japan.

Publication date: 2004-04-01

More about this publication?
  • Vascular disease is the commonest cause of death in Westernized countries and its incidence is on the increase in developing countries. It follows that considerable research is directed at establishing effective treatment for acute vascular events. Long-term treatment has also received considerable attention (e.g. for symptomatic relief). Furthermore, effective prevention, whether primary or secondary, is backed by the findings of several landmark trials.

    Vascular disease is a complex field with primary care physicians and nurse practitioners as well as several specialties involved. The latter include cardiology, vascular and cardio thoracic surgery, general medicine, radiology, clinical pharmacology and neurology (stroke units). Current Vascular Pharmacology will publish reviews to update all those concerned with the treatment of vascular disease. For example, reviews commenting on recently published trials or new drugs will be included. In addition to clinically relevant topics we will consider 'research-based' reviews dealing with future developments and potential drug targets. Therefore, another function of Current Vascular Pharmacology is to bridge the gap between clinical practice and ongoing research.

    Debates will also be encouraged in the correspondence section of this journal.
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