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Are immune cells responsible for heart attacks and strokes?

Professor Karlheinz Peter, Institution: The University of Melbourne

2021 Vanguard Grant  

Years funded: 2022-2023  

Professor Karlheinz Peter and team have discovered that T cells, a type of immune cell, may be directly responsible for the events that cause heart attacks and strokes. T cells are the most common immune cell within atherosclerotic plaques, with atherosclerosis being the underlying condition causing most heart disease deaths. The research team believe that T cells specifically attack proteins belonging to our own bodies within atherosclerotic plaques. As a result, these plaques become very inflamed, which drives plaques to rupture and causes heart attacks and strokes. In this research Professor Peter's team will profile the molecules T cells express to interact with their environment and cause inflammation. This will define how and why they cause inflammation in atherosclerosis. Secondly, using mice that lack T cells, the team will confirm that T cells do cause the events leading to heart attacks and strokes. For decades the treatment of heart disease has focused on lowering cholesterol. Professor Peter anticipates that this work will open up an entirely new avenue for preventing heart attacks and strokes.

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