A discovery made by researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit, in collaboration with scientists at La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in California, may assist in the development of the first vaccine for heart disease.
The research — which considers autoantigen, a tissue that evokes an immune response from the body, causing immune inflammation plaque in the arteries and leading to heart disease — found a connection between T cells, a type of white blood cell, in autoantigen apoB100 and heart disease.
“Although T cells (a type of white blood cell) of the immune system are known to participate in the development of heart disease, by what and how these T cells are directed to act have not been elucidated,” says Harry Tse, a WSU professor who made the discovery with colleague Michael Shaw. “The lack of this knowledge has greatly hampered the development of immune peptide-based therapeutics to control the disease.”
Tse says the discovery of the disease-causing T cell epitopes will allow scientists to “manipulate the activities of the T cells responding to these epitopes to control the disease.”
According to Wayne State, nearly 600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year. Although cholesterol is believed to be a major factor in creating the plaque that leads to heart disease, immune inflammation is another important contributor in arterial plaque buildup. The goal of the vaccine is to reduce immune-based inflammation in the arteries, leading to decreased plaque buildup.