Single cell analyses to understand the immune continuum in atherosclerosis

Christopher A. Hill, Dawn M. Fernandez, Chiara Giannarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Atherosclerosis is initiated by the accumulation of lipids in the arterial wall that trigger a complex and poorly understood network of inflammatory processes. At the same time, recent clinical findings reveal that targeting specific immune alterations in patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) represents a promising approach to preventing recurrent cardiovascular events. In order to achieve these tailored therapies, it is critical to resolve the heterogenous environment of the atherosclerotic lesion and decipher the complex structural and functional changes which immune cells undergo throughout disease progression. Recently, single-cell approaches including single cell mass cytometry by time of flight (CyTOF), single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) and Cellular Indexing of Transcriptomes and Epitopes by Sequencing (CITE-seq) have emerged as valuable tools in resolving cellular plasticity within atherosclerotic lesions. In this review, we will discuss the most important insights that have been gleaned from the application of these single-cell approaches to validated experimental models of atherosclerosis. Additionally, as clinical progress in treatment of the disease depends on the translation of discoveries to human tissues, we will also examine the challenges associated with the application of single-cell approaches to human vascular tissue and the discoveries made by the initial efforts in this direction. Finally, we will analyze the advantages and limitations of dissociative single-cell approaches and how novel in-situ technologies could advance the field by allowing for the investigation of individual cells while preserving the heterogenous architecture of the atherosclerotic lesion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-94
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Atherosclerosis
  • CITE-Seq
  • CyTOF
  • Immune cells
  • Single cell RNA sequencing


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