Monocytes and their descendant macrophages are essential to the development and exacerbation of atherosclerosis, a lipid-driven inflammatory disease. Lipid-laden macrophages, known as foam cells, reside in early lesions and advanced atheromata. Our understanding of how monocytes accumulate in the growing lesion, differentiate, ingest lipids, and contribute to disease has advanced substantially over the last several years. These cells' remarkable phenotypic and functional complexity is a therapeutic opportunity: in the future, treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease and its complications may involve specific targeting of atherogenic monocytes/macrophages and their products.
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