The link between atherosclerosis and stem cells

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    A new study published in PLoS One and conducted by researchers at the University at Buffalo reveals an interesting link about stem cells and atherosclerosis. It seems that stem cells play a key role in the development of atherom plaque in blood vessels. The study of the University at Buffalo continues previous research made by scientists at Columbia University that showed that high levels of LDL cholesterol contributes to the stimulation of hematopoietic stem / progenitor cells ( HSPC ‘s).

    Thomas R. Cimato, MD, PhD, lead author on the PLoS ONE paper and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said the new study opens new perspectives on the prevention of heart disease and stroke by focusing on the link between ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL ) and HSPC ‘s.

    Dr Cimato explained that they extrapolated the results of laboratory animal studies on the link between LDL cholesterol and HSPC ‘s on humans. The fact that the results obtained during experiments on laboratory animals are equivalent to humans is remarkable. However Dr Cimato explained that the mice used for studies of atherosclerosis had lower levels of cholesterol at baseline and that they fed mice with high fat diet to study the effects of high levels of coleterol.

    stem cells

    Cimato noted that the degree of  levels of LDL cholesterol used during studies is higher than that found in patients who come to hospital stroke or heart attack. He explained that the passage from mice with high LDL cholesterol to humans requires several steps, for example , controlling high cholesterol with three different types of statins. In order to conduct the study, researchers followed for a year a dozen patients without known heart disease who were on statins for a period of two weeks separated by intervals of a month when they were off drugs.

    The researchers found that LDL cholesterol regulates the stem cells that form neutrophils, macrophages and monocytes , cells involved in the development of atherom plaque. Another discovery was that statins can indeed reduce the level of HSPC ‘s but the response to treatment of each patient is different. The study is the first of its kind to demonstrate that high total cholesterol stimulates stem cells from bone marrow and that this process involves a molecule that is implied in many chronic inflammatory diseases: IL -17.  Studies have shown that this interleukin determines the release of stem cell in the bloodstream by stimulating G-CSF, granulocyte colony stimulating factor .