Purpose of review
Fibroblasts are very heterogeneous and plastic cells in the vasculature. A growing interest in fibroblasts in healthy and atherosclerotic vasculature is observed, next to macrophages, endothelial cells, and smooth muscle cells (SMCs). In this review, we discuss fibroblast presence, heterogeneity, origin, and plasticity in health and atherosclerosis based on latest literature.
With help of single cell sequencing (SCS) techniques, we have gained more insight into presence and functions of fibroblasts in atherosclerosis. Next to SMCs, fibroblasts are extracellular matrix-producing cells abundant in the vasculature and involved in atherogenesis. Fibroblasts encompass a heterogeneous population and SCS data reveal several fibroblast clusters in healthy and atherosclerotic tissue with varying gene expression and function. Moreover, recent findings indicate interesting similarities between adventitial stem and/or progenitor cells and fibroblasts. Also, communication with inflammatory cells opens up a new therapeutic avenue.
Because of their highly plastic and heterogeneous nature, modulating fibroblast cell function and communication in the atherosclerotic vessel might be useful in battling atherosclerosis from within the plaque.