NYMC Faculty Publications

Therapeutic Implications of NLRP3-Mediated Inflammation in Coronary Artery Disease

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Cardiology in Review

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Atherosclerosis is considered a chronic, inflammatory disease responsible for more than 15% of all global deaths, secondary to its complications of myocardial infarction, vascular disease, and stroke. Current treatment regimens consist of lipid-lowering pharmaceuticals, control of risk factors, and prevention of plaque rupture and thrombosis with antiplatelet agents. However, a significant burden on society remains due to the morbidity and mortality of coronary artery disease despite our best practices. In addition to dyslipidemia and hemostasis, inflammation has now moved to the proverbial forefront as the remaining obstacle to appropriate management of atherosclerosis. A complex dance of endothelial dysfunction, complement activation, and immune cell-mediated cytokine release underlie the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic plaque development, destabilization, and rupture. Cholesterol-induced sterile inflammation is thought to be central to this process via activation of a protein complex called the nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-, leucine-rich repeat- and pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome. The focus of this review article will be to examine the NLRP3 inflammasome, which directs the release of interleukin-1, leading to downstream pro-inflammatory effects, and its potential for therapeutic targeting using currently available and future tools in our pharmacologic arsenal. In particular, we focus on the results of several large, recently concluded clinical trials including the Canakinumab Antiinflammatory Thrombosis Outcome Study, Colchicine Cardiovascular Outcomes Trial, and the Low-Dose Colchicine Study, examining the efficacy of direct inhibition of interleukin-1 with canakinumab or a multimodal approach to inhibiting the NLRP3 inflammasome using colchicine, as well as an overview of novel small molecule inhibitors that are still in development.