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Even though atherosclerosis is primarily a chronic inflammatory process, lipids are involved in atherosclerotic plaque formation. Lipoproteins are components of the foam cells that eventually develop into the plaque, if the inflammation in blood vessels continues. The body needs fat-soluable molecules. Yet the environment of the blood is aqueous. Lipoproteins therefore are designed to allow fat-soluble, hydrophobic molecules through the aqueous blood. Lipoproteins contain a phospholipid membrane with protein receptors but they are not cells. They are simple 'particles' that are filled with hydrophobic cargo (cholesterol and triglycerides). There are four major lipoproteins:

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
  • Very-low density lipoprotein (VLDL)
  • Chylomicrons (CM)