Anti-atherosclerotic plants which modulate the phenotype of vascular smooth muscle cells
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Background: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of global death, with atherosclerosis being a major contributor to this mortality. Several mechanisms are implicated in the pathogenesis of this disease. A key element in the development and progression of atherosclerotic lesions is the phenotype of vascular smooth muscle cells. Under pathophysiologic conditions such as injury, these cells switch from a contractile to a synthetic phenotype that often possesses high proliferative and migratory capacities. Purpose: Despite major advances made in the management and treatment of atherosclerosis, mortality associated with this disease remains high. This mandates that other approaches be sought. Herbal medicine, especially for the treatment of CVD, has been gaining more attention in recent years. This is in no small part due to the evidence-based values associated with the consumption of many plants as well as the relatively cheaper prices, easier access and conventional folk medicine inherited over generations. Sections: In this review, we provide a brief introduction about the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis then we highlight the role of vascular smooth muscle cells in this disease, especially when a phenotypic switch of these cells arises. We then thoroughly discuss the various plants that show potentially beneficial effects as anti-atherosclerotic, with prime attention given to herbs and plants that inhibit the phenotypic switch of vascular smooth muscle cells. Conclusion: Accumulating evidence provides the justification for the use of botanicals in the treatment or prevention of atherosclerosis. However, further studies, especially clinical ones, are warranted to better define several pharmacological parameters of these herbs, such as toxicity, tolerability, and efficacy.