Ceramides are bioactive lipids that have an important role in many cellular functions such as apoptosis and inflammation. During the past decade emerging clinical data have shown that ceramides are not only of great biochemical interest but may also have diagnostic utility. Ceramides have shown independent predictive value for negative cardiovascular outcomes as well as for the onset of type 2 diabetes. Based on abundant published data, risk score using the concentrations of circulating ceramides have been developed and adapted for routine clinical practice. Currently serum ceramides are used clinically as efficient risk stratifiers for primary and secondary prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD). A direct cause-effect relationship between CVD and ceramide has not been established to date. As ceramide-specific medications are being developed, conventional strategies such as lipid lowering agents and lifestyle interventions can be used to reduce overall risk. Ceramides can identify a very high-risk coronary heart disease category of patients in need for more intense medical attention, specifically those patients at higher risk as highlighted in the 2019 European Society of Cardiology guidelines for stable chronic coronary syndrome patients. In addition, the ceramide risk score may be used as a decision-making tool in primary prevention patients with moderate CVD risk. Finally, the ceramide risk score may have a unique utility as a motivational tool to increase patient’s adherence to medical therapy and lifestyle changes.
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