-- Randy Dotinga
THURSDAY, Jan. 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New research in mice
suggests that a molecule linked to clogged arteries might activate
the immune system to the point where it harms the body.
The findings may explain why clogged arteries, a condition
called atherosclerosis, have been tied to autoimmune disorders,
which develop when the immune system goes awry.
"The lesson from this study is that immune diseases are not always a matter of immune system alone," said senior study author Yeonseok Chung, of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "With our findings, we have just started to understand how factors in the circulatory system impact the immune system."
Levels of the molecule in question, oxidized low-density
lipoprotein (oxLDL), rise when the immune system is activated. The
study authors wondered if this might have a bearing on why people
with autoimmune conditions, such as psoriasis and rheumatoid
arthritis, are more likely to develop clogged arteries.
In the new study, which was published Jan. 9 in the journal
Immunity, the researchers found that the molecule increased
certain immune cells in mice that had the equivalent of human
When those immune cells were treated with an agent that inhibits
their activity, symptoms of autoimmune disease improved.
"Our study suggests that we should consider circulatory factors in current therapeutic approaches for the treatment of autoimmune diseases," Chung said in a journal news release. For instance, controlling oxLDL levels in circulation might greatly improve the effectiveness of treatments for autoimmune diseases, Chung added.
Experts note that results achieved in animal studies often
aren't replicated in humans.
For more about
vascular diseases, see the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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