Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) have long been associated with phenotypic modulation/plasticity or dedifferentiation. Innovative technologies in cell lineage tracing, single-cell RNA sequencing, and human genomics have been integrated to gain unprecedented insights into the molecular reprogramming of VSMCs to other cell phenotypes in experimental and clinical atherosclerosis. The current thinking is that an apparently small subset of contractile VSMCs undergoes a fate switch to transitional, multipotential cells that can adopt plaque-destabilizing (inflammation, ossification) or plaque-stabilizing (collagen matrix deposition) cell states. Several candidate mediators of such VSMC fate and state changes are coming to light with intriguing implications for understanding coronary artery disease risk and the development of new treatment modalities. Here, we briefly summarize some technical and conceptual advancements derived from 2 publications in Circulation and another in Nature Medicine that, collectively, illuminate new research directions to further explore the role of VSMCs in atherosclerotic disease.
- cell differentiation
- myocytes, smooth muscle
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Physiology (medical)