A specific periodontal pathogen increases inflammation and atherosclerosis in aortic smooth muscle cells of heart patients, says a new study.
Researchers at Örebro University in Sweden studied in animal models how the pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis, which has been found in the coronary artery plaques of heart attack patients, causes genetic changes that increase the inflammation of heart disease.
"Our research clarifies the mechanism behind the association of periodontitis and cardiovascular disease. Our aim is to find biomarkers that can help us diagnose and treat both diseases," said Boxi Zhang, a doctoral student at Örebro University.
Periodonititis is caused by the buildup of the bacteria that make up dental plaques at the gumline, often starting as the condition gingivitis. The cause of this generally is poor diet and, more significantly, poor oral hygiene.
Researchers showed that P. gingivalis can cause heart disease by culturing human aortic smooth muscle cells and infecting them with the pathogen. Gingipains, which are produced by the pathogen, increase the expression of the pro-inflammatory gene angiopoietin 2 while decreasing the expression of the anti-inflammatory angiopoietin 1 -- a combination that increases inflammation in aortic muscles.
"Angiopoietin 2 directly increases the migration of aortic smooth muscle cells. The migration of smooth muscle cells is involved in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis," said Zhang.