The hardening of the arteries, also called atherosclerosis, that can lead to heart attack or stroke. has also been linked to autoimmune disorders. It has not been clear why these diseases are related, but a study published January 9th by Cell Press in the journal Immunity reveals that a molecule that causes atherosclerosis also activates white blood cells called T cells, causing clinical symptoms of autoimmune disease to worsen in mice. The findings shed light on the tight link between autoimmunity and atherosclerosis, opening new avenues for the treatment of autoimmune disorders.
"The lesson from this study is that immune diseases are not always a matter of immune system alone," says senior study author Yeonseok Chung of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "With our findings, we have just started to understand how factors in the circulatory system impact the immune system."