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Stem Cells International
Volume 2016, Article ID 7321404, 7 pages
Review Article

Cellular Model of Atherogenesis Based on Pluripotent Vascular Wall Pericytes

1Department of Development and Regeneration, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
2Laboratory of Angiopathology, Institute of General Pathology and Pathophysiology, Moscow 125315, Russia
3Institute for Atherosclerosis Research, Skolkovo Innovative Center, Moscow 121609, Russia

Received 19 September 2015; Accepted 9 December 2015

Academic Editor: Agnes L. Nishimura

Copyright © 2016 Ekaterina A. Ivanova and Alexander N. Orekhov. 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.


Pericytes are pluripotent cells that can be found in the vascular wall of both microvessels and large arteries and veins. They have distinct morphology with long branching processes and form numerous contacts with each other and with endothelial cells, organizing the vascular wall cells into a three-dimensional network. Accumulating evidence demonstrates that pericytes may play a key role in the pathogenesis of vascular disorders, including atherosclerosis. Macrovascular pericytes are able to accumulate lipids and contribute to growth and vascularization of the atherosclerotic plaque. Moreover, they participate in the local inflammatory process and thrombosis, which can lead to fatal consequences. At the same time, pericytes can represent a useful model for studying the atherosclerotic process and for the development of novel therapeutic approaches. In particular, they are suitable for testing various substances’ potential for decreasing lipid accumulation induced by the incubation of cells with atherogenic low-density lipoprotein. In this review we will discuss the application of cellular models for studying atherosclerosis and provide several examples of successful application of these models to drug research.