Heart valve disease is unique in that it affects both the very young and very old, and does not discriminate by financial affluence, social stratus, or global location. Research over the past decade has transformed our understanding of heart valve cell biology, yet still more remains unclear regarding how these cells respond and adapt to their local microenvironment. Recent studies have identified inflammatory signaling at nearly every point in the life cycle of heart valves, yet its role at each stage is unclear. While the vast majority of evidence points to inflammation as mediating pathological valve remodeling and eventual destruction, some studies suggest inflammation may provide key signals guiding transient adaptive remodeling. Though the mechanisms are far from clear, inflammatory signaling may be a previously unrecognized ally in the quest for controlled rapid tissue remodeling, a key requirement for regenerative medicine approaches for heart valve disease. This paper summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding inflammatory mediation of heart valve remodeling and suggests key questions moving forward.
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