APR 07, 2018 6:52 AM PDT

Which individual cells are to blame for atherosclerosis?

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

The immune cells that are partly responsible for clogging arteries in a disease called atherosclerosis are under investigation. From the University of Wurzburg, scientists have described a completely new class of macrophages, a type of immune cell.

Gene expression fingerprint of each single cell in a three-dimensional projection after bioinformatics analysis to identify the cellular phenotype. Credit: Cochain/Vafadarnejad/Saliba/Zernecke

Atherosclerosis affects the blood vessels and is a precursor to heart disease, the leading cause of death for men and women worldwide. Fatty deposits called plaques (containing cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, fibrin, and other fatty substances) clog up arteries and lead to heart attack and stroke. The risk factors for atherosclerosis have been studied thoroughly and are well understood: a high fat diet, lack of physical activity, and regular smoking habits.

Researchers from the present study were interested in identifying which specific cells are involved with atherosclerosis and how they initiate the development of the disease. They started by investigating the macrophage populations in atherosclerotic vessels.

"It has already been suspected that different macrophage subsets are at work in atherosclerotic vessels where they assume different tasks," explained Clement Cochain and Alma Zernecke-Madsen.

They used a technique called single-cell RNA sequencing to identify three different macrophage populations that impact how atherosclerosis develops, something scientists had not been able to do before due to a lack of appropriate biomarkers. This technology allows researchers to visualize individual cells and the RNA molecules within them, analyzing their gene expression through high-frequency sequencing. If scientists can understand their gene expression, they can learn more about their function in the context of atherosclerosis.

Researchers used single-cell RNA sequencing with samples taken from healthy aortas and atherosclerostic aortas. In the diseased blood vessels, researchers found monocytes which differentiate into macrophages, and dendritic cells, which differentiate from macrophages. In the healthy blood vessels, researchers found local macrophages and other immune cells.

With a distinction made between the types of immune cells in healthy versus atherosclerotic blood vessels, researchers hope they can quickly improve how they understand, diagnose, and treat atherosclerosis as early as possible.

"These findings open up new possibilities to study these cell populations and their respective functions during atherosclerosis in greater detail now," said Alma Zernecke-Madsen.

The present study was published in the journal Circulation Research.

Sources: American Heart Association, University of Wurzburg

About the Author
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 19, 2022
Neuroscience
Heart Disease and Diabetes Double Dementia Risk
JUN 19, 2022
Heart Disease and Diabetes Double Dementia Risk
Having two or more cardiometabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disaese, and stroke, doubles dementia risk. ...
AUG 02, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
CRISPR Technology Breaks New Ground with Edits to Gene that Regulates Cholesterol
AUG 02, 2022
CRISPR Technology Breaks New Ground with Edits to Gene that Regulates Cholesterol
In 2013, scientists described a method for editing the genome of eukaryotic cells (such at those found in humans) using ...
JUL 25, 2022
Cardiology
Drug that Can Help Men Live Longer?
JUL 25, 2022
Drug that Can Help Men Live Longer?
A new study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine and recently published in Science discusses how the loss ...
AUG 02, 2022
Cardiology
Exercising 150-600 Minutes Per Week Leads to Lowest Death Risk
AUG 02, 2022
Exercising 150-600 Minutes Per Week Leads to Lowest Death Risk
People who exercise for two to four times the recommended amount per week see major reductions in all-cause mortality.
NOV 02, 2022
Technology
e-Cigarettes Pose Cardiovascular Health Risks Similar to Regular Cigarettes, Study Finds
NOV 02, 2022
e-Cigarettes Pose Cardiovascular Health Risks Similar to Regular Cigarettes, Study Finds
e-Cigarettes quickly emerged as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. Many companies claimed that e-cigarettes, or v ...
NOV 24, 2022
Cardiology
Processed Foods Linked to Obesity
NOV 24, 2022
Processed Foods Linked to Obesity
To fend off obesity, avoid processed foods and aim to eat high-protein breakfasts.
Loading Comments...