Increased arterial stiffness is an independent predictor of cardiovascular disease independent from blood pressure. Recent studies have shed new light on the importance of inflammation on the pathogenesis of arterial stiffness. Arterial stiffness is associated with the increased activity of angiotensin II, which results in increased NADPH oxidase activity, reduced NO bioavailability and increased production of reactive oxygen species. Angiotensin II signaling activates matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) which degrade TGFβ precursors to produce active TGFβ, which then results in increased arterial fibrosis. Angiotensin II signaling also activates cytokines, including monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, TNF-α, interleukin-1, interleukin-17 and inter-leukin-6. There is also ample clinical evidence that demonstrates the association of inflammation with increased arterial stiffness. Recent studies have shown that reductions in inflammation can reduce arterial stiffness. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, increased aortic pulse wave velocity in patients was significantly reduced by anti tumor necrosis factor-α therapy. Among the major classes of anti hypertensive drugs, drugs that block the activation of the RAS system may be more effective in reducing the progression of arterial stiffness. Thus, there is rationale for targeting specifc inflammatory pathways involved in arterial stiffness in the development of future drugs. Understanding the role of inflammation in the pathogenesis of arterial stiffness is important to understanding the complex puzzle that is the pathophysiology of arterial stiffening and may be important for future development of novel treatments.
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