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Specialized protein is key to the prevention of heart attacks and strokes, study finds

Arterial blockages caused by a condition called atherosclerosis are major culprits behind heart attacks and strokes. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


Arterial blockages caused by a condition called atherosclerosis are major culprits behind heart attacks and strokes, which are leading causes of death worldwide.


Scientists from the Medical University of Vienna and the University Hospital of Würzburg have made significant progress in understanding this disease and uncovering potential new methods for early detection and treatment. Their findings were recently published in the journal Nature Cardiovascular Research.


 
 

Macrophages, specialized cells in the body, are known to play a crucial role in the development of atherosclerosis by forming plaques that narrow or block arteries, leading to severe complications like heart attacks and strokes. However, the exact workings of macrophages in this process remain unclear.


TREM2 regulates macrophage activity and thus could influence the development of atherosclerosis. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


In their quest for answers, researchers led by Christoph Binder and Florentina Porsch from MedUni Vienna's Department of Laboratory Medicine, in collaboration with Clément Cochain, Alma Zernecke, and Marie Piollet from the University Hospital of Würzburg, focused on a protein called TREM2 (TREM stands for Triggering Receptor Expressed on Myeloid Cells).


 
 

TREM2 regulates macrophage activity and thus could influence the development of atherosclerosis.


Their study suggests that TREM2 plays a crucial role in the formation of unstable plaques, which are prone to rupture, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.


 

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By controlling the survival of foam cells, prevalent in atherosclerotic plaques, and facilitating the removal of damaged cells, TREM2 helps limit the formation of these dangerous plaques.


The study's findings are promising, indicating that treating mice predisposed to atherosclerosis with a specific antibody against TREM2 reduced the formation of unstable plaques.


 
 

This suggests TREM2 could be a new target for stabilizing plaques, potentially preventing heart attacks and strokes.


Representative pictures of macrophage coverage (Mac2 staining) in in Ldlr−/− mice fed a high fat diet and treated with isotype antibody or 4D9 for 10 weeks (5mg/kg i.p. twice weekly), related to Fig. 2p (n = 14 Ldlr−/− mice treated with isotype control (8 males, 6 females); 17 Ldlr−/−, mice treated with 4D9 (10 males, 7 females)). (CREDIT: Nature Cardiovascular Research)


Additionally, the researchers discovered a connection between a soluble form of TREM2 (sTREM2) and the progression of atherosclerosis. This protein could not only offer new avenues for disease treatment but also serve as a biomarker for early detection.


 
 

"Our results shed light on the complex mechanisms of atherosclerosis and pave the way for developing effective therapies," summarize the researchers, emphasizing the importance of their work for future studies.





For more science and technology stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

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