The long Arm of the Dendritic Cells: The Link between Atherosclerosis and Autoimmune Diseases
Inflammation has been closely linked to autoimmunogenic processes in atherosclerosis. In fact, patients who are suffering from an autoimmune disease have an increased incidence of “hardening of the arteries”, concretely atherosclerosis (the spelling “arteriosclerosis” is also common). In the case of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) the patients have a 30 to 60% higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke!
pDCs: the link between atherosclerosis and autoimmunity
Now clinical researchers at Munich Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) have uncovered a mechanism which establishes a causal link between the two types of disease. The immunological process may help to explain the link between autoimmunity and atherosclerosis.
The mechanism described is provided by a specific class of immune cells called plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs). The pDCs respond to DNA released from damaged and dying cells by secreting interferon proteins. The research, which is done in collaboration with scientists from Rudolf Virchow Center at Wuerzburg University, shows that stimulation of pDCs by a specific DNA-protein complex contributes to the progression of atherosclerosis. These findings may have implications for new strategies for the treatment of a whole spectrum of conditions that are associated with chronic inflammatory reactions. (more…)