Pathobiology of familial hypercholesterolemic atherosclerosis

G. Aliev, R. J. Castellani, R. B. Petersen, G. Burnstock, G. Perry, M. A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Many factors play a role in the development of atherosclerotic lesions. One of the leading risk factors for development of atherosclerosis is familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). FH is a genetic disease characterized by a deficiency, and/or mutation, of receptors for low density lipoprotein (LDL) on the plasmalemma of endothelial cells (EC), a high level of low density lipoprotein in the plasma, and early, spontaneous development of atherosclerosis and skin xanthoma. In this review we describe Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic (WHHL) rabbits, which represent such an animal model for human FH. This strain of the rabbits is characterized by a genetic deficiency or mutation of functional LDL receptors and develops severe atherosclerosis, which is pathologically similar to familial homozygous hyperlipidemic patients. The most completely characterized animal model is the Watanabe rabbit, a model of homozygous and heterozygous type IIa hypercholesterolemia related to an LDL receptor deficiency. Additional manipulation such as aortic injury in this rabbit model induces the development of atherosclerotic lesions that are structurally similar to those found in humans. Thus, this model of hypercholesterolemia fulfils the above criteria set, i.e. it is able to provide new insights for a better understanding of the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and for testing new treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-240
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Submicroscopic Cytology and Pathology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 2004


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia
  • Genetic models
  • Lipoprotein metabolism


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