Reversal of atherosis and sclerosis. The two components of atherosclerosis.
In 1904, Marchand recognized the consistent association of fatty degeneration and vessel stiffening and introduced the term "atherosclerosis" to indicate this combination. Current research is focused principally on the lipid component, but there is evidence that both aspects are reversible. Atheromatous lipids add significantly to the volume of lesions and thus contribute to vascular obstruction and end-organ damage. Reversal of atherosis has been observed in all the major species used in atherosclerosis research; rabbits, swine, dogs, chicks, pigeons, and subhuman primates. Direct evidence for reversal in humans is based on angiographic trials and is less extensive. One femoral artery and one coronary artery trial indicate that the lesions can be stabilized. CLAS, the largest angiographic trial to date, indicates that coronary lesion reversal is possible. Clinical effects of sclerosis are more subtle, and there is little evidence that sclerosis alone leads to end-organ damage. However, it should be noted that atherosclerotic lesions producing end-organ damage invariably have a major fibrous component. Sclerotic vessels have reduced systolic expansion and abnormally rapid pulse wave propagation, which can be measured noninvasively. Primate studies indicate that sclerosis is induced by hypercholesterolemic diets and is reversible when these diets are withdrawn. Changes in sclerosis may be another useful indicator of the formation and reversal of lesions and may involve changes in EDRF. Future studies of atherosclerosis reversal should use a combination of measures to evaluate both atherosis and sclerosis.
- Copyright © 1989 by American Heart Association