A new study on mice finds that Cell therapy can help in reversing the effect of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and reducing the inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis. Conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet, the new cell therapy can help in the development of new therapies for stroke and myocardial infarction, provided humans respond in the same way.
The cell therapy, developed under the direction of Professor Göran K Hansson at the Centre for Molecular Medicine, works by selectively dampening vascular inflammation caused by LDL. The therapy utilizes dendritic cells, which have a high degree of plasticity that makes them responsive to manipulation.
Dr Andreas Hermansson, one of the researchers, states: “With the appropriate treatment, dendritic cells can be made to inhibit rather than aggravate the inflammation around the LDL particles in the blood vessels. A major advantage of this is that we can devise a treatment for vascular diseases that is highly specific.
The treatment has been found to reduce the atherosclerosis process by up to about 70 percent. In 2010, the same group of researchers presented study results showing that antibodies recognizing the receptors that drive the immune reaction have protective effects. Now, they have found a cell therapy that is at least as efficacious. It is hoped that this will help in the development of a completely new generation of selective anti-inflammatory therapies for cardiovascular disease.
Professor Hansson says: “Treatments of atherosclerosis have traditionally targeted blood lipids, but a large proportion of treated patients still suffer life-threatening infarctions and stroke. We’re now looking at the possibility of getting to the root of the problem and re-set, so to speak, the immune system’s reaction to LDL, since it often has devastating consequences.”
The Center for Molecular Medicine is a joint effort of the Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital.
Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammation of the blood vessels. LDL cholesterol transported in the blood vessels can accumulate in the walls of vessels. This accumulation causes the immune system to take action against LDL, which results in inflammation in the vessels, and eventually thrombus formation. The patient has a myocardial infarction if this thrombus forms in the coronary artery. A stroke can occur if the thrombus forms in the brain.
Financers of the study include the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation, Vinnova (the Swedish governmental agency for innovation systems), the Stockholm County Council, and the EU Seventh Framework Programme.