Experts Raise Possibilities of Developing Vaccines to Prevent Heart Disease

By Sharon Moore on August 20, 2012

For decades, people have been receiving vaccines to improve their immune system and stay away from certain diseases such as polio, measles, mumps, tetanus, hepatitis B, etc. But there was never a vaccine developed to aid the onset of heart disease, which remains to be one of the most common causes of death. In a new study though, experts reported interesting findings that raise the possibility of heart disease vaccine.

Study – Antigen-presenting cells triggers inflammatory attack

A study carried out by the researchers from La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, and published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a specific type of cell was identified, which turns out to be responsible for orchestrating the inflammatory attack in the artery walls. These cells, called CD4 T cells, appear to have ‘memory’ of the molecule brought for by the antigen-presenting cells, explained Klaus Ley, M.D., the study lead author and a renowned expert in vascular immunology. He added that the said immune memory is the underlying basis on successful vaccines. This in turn, opens up the possibility of developing a new vaccine for heart disease.

Dr Ley thinks that the antigen that is involved in the inflammatory response is a normal protein which is mistaken by the body to be a foreign substance, resulting to an immune attack. As this happens, the arteries become inflamed, which is a common risk factor for heart attack. He and his team believe that autoimmune response is a major component of heart disease, and that developing vaccines, like those being explored for diabetes, can increase the body’s tolerance against the antigen and prevent the inflammatory attack from taking place.

The antigen-presenting cells, according to Dr Ley, take up infections organisms, self-proteins and other foreign materials. Then, they ‘chop’ them into little pieces called epitopes. As a response, the T cells come along and release cytokines to counteract the epitopes. This reaction causes inflammation in the arteries. Furthermore, the inflammatory cells stimulate the build-up of cholesterol and plaque which block the blood from passing through the veins. As a result, a person suffers from heart attack.

The study involved using live cell imaging techniques in comparing the immune cells between mice with normal cardiovascular system and those with atherosclerosis. They found that in mice with atherosclerotic disease, there are a large number of antigen-experienced T cells which considered self-proteins to be foreign substances.

But Dr Ley warns that developing a vaccine is such a complicated process which may take years. Still, he reiterated the possibility that it can be done. If successful, then this tolerogenic vaccine (which is being developed for diabetes), can prevent the inflammatory response in the heart, he added. Such vaccine may then be used in conjunction with cholesterol-lowering drugs prescribed to many people at risk of heart failure.


Source of this article:

A Vaccine for Heart Disease? La Jolla Institute Discovery Points Up This Possibility, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology

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