Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide. Despite progress in management, there remain a significant number of patients who are not eligible for current treatment options. Traditionally, HO-1 (haem oxygenase-1), one of two isoenzymes that initiate haem catabolism, was thought to only play a metabolic role. However, HO-1 is now recognized to have additional protective activities in states of heightened noxious stimuli or stress such as acute coronary syndromes. The present review article provides an overview of the mode of action of HO-1 in vascular protection, with particular emphasis on its atheroprotective, anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties, as well as its role in vascular repair. Furthermore, we present evidence for the protective effects of HO-1 in CVD (cardiovascular disease) in both animal and human studies. Given its potential in vascular protection and repair, strategies aimed at inducing HO-1 emerge as a novel and alternative therapeutic target in the management of CVD.

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