Cardiac Allograft Vasculopathy
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Cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV) continues to limit the long-term success of cardiac transplantation. Recent insights have underscored the fact that innate and adaptive immune responses are involved in the pathogenesis of CAV. Vascular lesions are the result of cumulative endothelial injuries induced both by alloimmune responses and by nonspecific insults (including ischemia-reperfusion injury, viral infections, and metabolic disorders) in the context of impaired repair mechanisms. Intravascular ultrasound is the most sensitive method for detection of CAV, and progressive intimal thickening in the first posttransplant year identifies patients at high risk for future cardiovascular events. Encouraging results with regard to the detection of CAV by noninvasive methods should be an incentive to apply routine noninvasive imaging during mid- to long-term follow-up. Improved immunosuppressive drugs, including mycophenolate mofetil and proliferation signal inhibitors, as well as statins (in part via immunomodulation), have beneficial effects on CAV progression, although there is still a need to confirm the impact of vasodilators in improving outcome after heart transplantation. Coronary revascularization for CAV is only palliative, with no long-term survival benefit. Three main strategies for CAV prevention are currently under investigation: inhibition of growth factors and cytokines, cell therapy, and tolerance induction. However, because individual responses to an allograft change over time, assays to monitor the recipient’s immune response and individualized methods for therapeutic immune modulation are clearly needed.