Atherosclerotic vascular disease, the leading cause of death in the industrialized world, begins when lipoproteins retained in the arterial wall provoke a series of cellular reactions involving macrophages, endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, and immune cells. The lesion is propagated through a series of complex cell-cell and cell-lipid interactions, leading to inflammation, extracellular matrix alterations, and necrosis. These events, in turn, promote plaque disruption, acute thrombosis, and sudden vascular occlusion. The cellular processes of atherogenesis represent key therapeutic targets, but successful strategies will require a thorough understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved. In this context, the first aim of the meeting is to bring together leading cellular and molecular biologists with expertise in those processes that are relevant to atherogenesis. Some of the invited scientists are cell biologists who have not previously applied their expertise to atherosclerosis per se despite the likely relevance of their work to atherogenic processes. A prime example is our Keynote Speaker, Dr. James Rothman, a world renown cell biologist in the area of intracellular vesicular trafficking. As such, we hope to spawn new interactions between researchers focused on atherogenesis per se and those with expert knowledge in cell biological areas that warrant greater representation in atherosclerosis research.
The second aim i s to provide a forum for young scientists (graduate and research-oriented medical students, post-doctoral research fellows, and research-oriented clinical fellows) to interact with the best senior scientists in the field of the cell biology of atherosclerosis. These students and young scientists will be exposed to vascular biology researchers who stress the importance of rigorously conducted basic cellular and molecular biology as a way to approach questions related to the etiology and therapeutic strategies of atherosclerosis.