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The body's own healing processes after a heart attack: Scientists discover where the immune response comes from

The body's own healing processes after a heart attack: Scientists discover where the immune response comes from


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The immune system reacts quickly after a heart attack

Around 300,000 people in Germany suffer a heart attack each year. In an acute case, quick action is necessary. Timely help saves lives. The body itself also reacts quickly after an infarction to stimulate the healing process. Researchers have now found out where the immune response comes from.

Restore blood flow to the heart quickly

A heart attack is a dangerous event and can be fatal to those affected. In acute cases, quick action is necessary to save lives and avoid consequential damage. Doctors need to restore blood flow to the heart as quickly as possible in the event of an infarction. But the body itself also reacts quickly after a heart attack to stimulate the healing process. Researchers at the Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU) in Munich have now found out where this immune response comes from.

The immune system has to react quickly after a heart attack

After a heart attack, the immune system must respond quickly to stimulate the healing process.

Researchers around Sabine Steffens, Professor of Clinical Pathobiochemistry at the Institute for Prophylaxis and Epidemiology of Circulatory Diseases (IPEK) at the LMU Clinic, have now identified the crucial point at which the immune response is activated in a heart attack.

They are clusters (clusters) of lymphocytes that are located in the so-called pericardial adipose tissue of the pericardium. The researchers are currently reporting on this in the "Circulation" magazine.

Where the immune response is activated and controlled

“Clusters of lymphocytes are important places for the adaptive immune response and inflammation monitoring,” explains Sabine Steffens in a message.

These clusters were first discovered in 2015 in several places in the body's fatty tissue.

"They probably serve as local monitoring points so that the immune response starts up as quickly as possible."

The pericardial adipose tissue, located close to the heart muscle, has a very high density of lymphocyte clusters.

"After a heart attack, the immune response is activated and controlled here", Steffens summarizes her study result.

Inflammatory reaction from neutrophils

Lymphocytes are activated and cytokines are released, which in turn ensure that other immune cells, the neutrophils, migrate to the damaged heart muscle.

There they trigger an inflammatory reaction, through which the damaged tissue is broken down by immune cells.

Only last year, LMU doctors led by Prof. Steffens had shown in a study that the amount of neutrophils plays an important role in why heart attacks are much more dangerous in the morning.

“At the beginning of the active phase, more neutrophils are released from the bone marrow. In humans, their active phase is in the early morning. A heart attack at this time leads to an excessive inflammatory reaction by neutrophils, ”Steffens said in a statement at the time.

This worsens the chances of a cure, as the increased inflammation also causes more scars to form in the tissue and the heart muscle to expand, which weakens the heart.

Therapeutic treatment of heart attacks

In their current study, the team led by Steffens was able to demonstrate for the first time in the mouse model the mechanism by which the clusters of lymphocytes in the pericardial adipose tissue control the immune response after a heart attack and what crucial role they play in the healing process.

The researchers also evaluated data from patients with and without coronary heart disease as part of the study. In those with coronary heart disease, a higher concentration of lymphocytes in the pericardial adipose tissue was detected.

The new findings are also relevant for the therapeutic treatment of heart attacks. Changes in the pericardial adipose tissue could have an impact on the healing process. (ad)

Author and source information


Video: Influencing the Immune System. Wim Hof Method Science (May 2022).