Immune cell profiling in atherosclerosis: role in research and precision medicine

Dawn M. Fernandez, Chiara Giannarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Inflammation is intimately involved at all stages of atherosclerosis and remains a substantial residual cardiovascular risk factor in optimally treated patients. The proof of concept that targeting inflammation reduces cardiovascular events in patients with a history of myocardial infarction has highlighted the urgent need to identify new immunotherapies to treat patients with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Importantly, emerging data from new clinical trials show that successful immunotherapies for atherosclerosis need to be tailored to the specific immune alterations in distinct groups of patients. In this Review, we discuss how single-cell technologies — such as single-cell mass cytometry, single-cell RNA sequencing and cellular indexing of transcriptomes and epitopes by sequencing — are ideal for mapping the cellular and molecular composition of human atherosclerotic plaques and how these data can aid in the discovery of new precise immunotherapies. We also argue that single-cell data from studies in humans need to be rigorously validated in relevant experimental models, including rapidly emerging single-cell CRISPR screening technologies and mouse models of atherosclerosis. Finally, we discuss the importance of implementing single-cell immune monitoring tools in early phases of drug development to aid in the precise selection of the target patient population for data-driven translation into randomized clinical trials and the successful translation of new immunotherapies into the clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-58
Number of pages16
JournalNature Reviews Cardiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


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