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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 701571, 8 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/701571
Review Article

Role of the Vasa Vasorum and Vascular Resident Stem Cells in Atherosclerosis

Department of Cardiovascular Regeneration and Innovation and Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Neurology, Asahikawa Medical University, 2-1-1-1 Midorigaoka-higashi, Asahikawa 078-8510, Japan

Received 22 August 2013; Revised 19 January 2014; Accepted 26 January 2014; Published 5 March 2014

Academic Editor: Masanori Aikawa

Copyright © 2014 Jun-ichi Kawabe and Naoyuki Hasebe. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Atherosclerosis is considered an “inside-out” response, that begins with the dysfunction of intimal endothelial cells and leads to neointimal plaque formation. The adventitia of large blood vessels has been recognized as an active part of the vessel wall that is involved in the process of atherosclerosis. There are characteristic changes in the adventitial vasa vasorum that are associated with the development of atheromatous plaques. However, whether vasa vasorum plays a causative or merely reactive role in the atherosclerotic process is not completely clear. Recent studies report that the vascular wall contains a number of stem/progenitor cells that may contribute to vascular remodeling. Microvessels serve as the vascular niche that maintains the resident stem/progenitor cells of the tissue. Therefore, the vasa vasorum may contribute to vascular remodeling through not only its conventional function as a blood conducting tube, but also its new conceptual function as a stem cell reservoir. This brief review highlights the recent advances contributing to our understanding of the role of the adventitial vasa vasorum in the atherosclerosis and discusses new concept that involves vascular-resident factors, the vasa vasorum and its associated vascular-resident stem cells, in the atherosclerotic process.