The core of an atheromatous plaque contains lipids, macrophages, and cellular debris, typically covered by a fibrous cap that separates the thrombogenic core from the blood. Rupture of the fibrous cap causes most fatal myocardial infarctions. Interstitial collagen confers tensile strength on the cap, as it does in skin and tendons. In 1994, Peter Libby and colleagues demonstrated overexpression of collagenolytic enzymes in atheromatous plaques and implicated MMPs in the destabilization of these lesions.
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