The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that heart failure impacts over six million Americans and is the major reason for death for one in eight patients.
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Recent research headed by the University of Minnesota Medical School scientist Xavier Revelo, Ph.D., an assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology, along with Jop van Berlo MD, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine, suggested that a kind of white blood cells called macrophages perform an important role in safeguarding the heart after injury.
The observation can lead the way to targeted therapies for heart failure. The study was published in the journal Circulation Research.
The heart contains various types of immune cells that we studied simultaneously using advanced research techniques. We discovered a large increase in the number of macrophages early in the response to a cardiac injury similar to high blood pressure.”
Xavier Revelo, Assistant Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology, University of Minnesota Medical School
The scientists came up with the following primary findings
- A cardiac injury similar to high blood pressure drives to a rapid increase in the number of cardiac macrophages.
- These cardiac macrophages are vital to trigger the formation of new blood vessels in the heart.
- Macrophages that are found in the heart are vital to impede scarring or fibrosis of the heart, a mechanism where excessive proteins are deposited around cardiac muscle cells, resulting in the stiffening of the heart.
- The initial increase in macrophages was vital to hinder the development of heart failure.
Immune cells in the heart play a vital role in the progression of heart failure and scarring of the heart. As of now, there is no cure for heart failure and the immune cell-targeted therapies offer hope for novel treatment avenues for cardiac disease. The observations of the research pinpoint the significant role of macrophages in the heart’s healing mechanism.
Immune cells such as macrophages are integral components of the heart where they exert profound effects in healthy and diseased conditions. Our new study shows that macrophages that reside in the cardiac tissue, but not those from blood origins, protect the failing heart.”
Jop van Berlo, Associate Professor, Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School
Additional research is needed to identify the specific means by which the macrophages safeguard the heart and to ascertain if immunomodulatory therapies are a viable therapeutic option in treating heart failure. Revelo assures that the researchers are already working on those questions.
Revelo, X., et al. (2021) Cardiac Resident Macrophages Prevent Fibrosis and Stimulate Angiogenesis. Circulation Research. doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.121.319737.