Innate and adaptive immunity: the understudied driving force of heart valve disease

Calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD), and its clinical manifestation that is calcific aortic valve stenosis, is the leading cause for valve disease within the developed world, with no current pharmacological treatment available to delay or halt its progression. Characterized by progressive fibrotic remodelling and subsequent pathogenic mineralization of the valve leaflets, valve disease affects 2.5% of the western population, thus highlighting the need for urgent intervention. Whilst the pathobiology of valve disease is complex, involving genetic factors, lipid infiltration, and oxidative damage, the immune system is now being accepted to play a crucial role in pathogenesis and disease continuation. No longer considered a passive degenerative disease, CAVD is understood to be an active inflammatory process, involving a multitude of pro-inflammatory mechanisms, with both the adaptive and the innate immune system underpinning these complex mechanisms. Within the valve, 15% of cells evolve from haemopoietic origin, and this number greatly expands following inflammation, as macrophages, T lymphocytes, B lymphocytes, and innate immune cells infiltrate the valve, promoting further inflammation. Whether chronic immune infiltration or pathogenic clonal expansion of immune cells within the valve or a combination of the two is responsible for disease progression, it is clear that greater understanding of the immune systems role in valve disease is required to inform future treatment strategies for control of CAVD development.


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