Inflammatory processes in arteriosclerosis revealed

Revolutionary new results concerning substances that play major roles in the inflammatory response have been published in the American scientific journal PNAS in two articles from Karolinska Institutet. Inflammation is important in, for example, cardiovascular disease. The results open the way for the development of new drugs both for prevention and for treatment.

Conditions and diseases that involve inflammation include severe infection, arthritis, asthma and arteriosclerosis. Certain substances, such as cytokines, are formed during the inflammation response and contribute to its various aspects. Professor Jesper Haeggstrm and his group, working in close collaboration with Professor Jan Palmblad's group, show in the first of two articles published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2 May 2006) that several of these substances can influence the cells of the blood vessel wall such that they start to express receptors for a leukotriene, LTB4.

This enables the cells to react to LTB4 and to transmit signals that reinforce the inflammation. LTB4 is a powerfully chemotactic and immuno-modulating substance that is important for the motion of white blood cells over the walls of the blood vessel when the tissue becomes damaged and inflamed. It has previously been believed that the cells of the blood vessel wall are silent, unable to react to LTB4.

The demonstration of new factors that control the interplay between the blood vessel cells and the white blood cells that are crucial in the inflammatory process will enable the development of new drugs to be targeted against these factors. New drugs may in the long term become available for use during chronic inflammation such as arthritis, asthma and cardiovascular disease.

The second of the two articles presents the first report of a study that has been carried out in collaboration with arteriosclerosis researchers and surgeons at the Karolinska Univer

Contact: Sara Aldn
Karolinska Institutet

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