Cell therapy can be used to reverse the effect of 'bad' LDL cholesterol and reduce the inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis, a new mice study has found.
And if the results obtained by researchers at Karolinska Institute prove translatable to humans, they study can open the way for new therapies for stroke and myocardial infarction.
Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammation of the blood vessels. Cholesterol is transported in the blood in particles called LDL ('bad' cholesterol) that can accumulate in the vessel walls.
This triggers the body's immune system to react against LDL, which then cause inflammation in the vessels, and eventually thrombus formation.
If such a thrombus forms in the coronary artery, the patient suffers a myocardial infarction; if it forms in the brain, a stroke can result.
The research group, led by Professor Goran K Hansson at the Centre for Molecular Medicine, have developed a cell therapy that selectively dampens vascular inflammation induced by LDL.
The therapy makes use of dendritic cells, which are characterized by a high degree of plasticity that renders them amenable to manipulation.
"With the appropriate treatment, dendritic cells can be made to inhibit rather than aggravate the inflammation around the LDL particles in the blood vessels", said Andreas Hermansson, one of the researchers conducting the study.
The mouse studies have demonstrated substantial protective effects of the treatment, with a reduction of the atherosclerosis process of up around 70 percent.
The research is presented in the prestigious scientific journal Circulation.