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Heart disease vaccine steps closer

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A new study offers a glimmer of hope for development of a vaccine for heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. A vaccine could increase the body's tolerance to a "normal" protein that immune cells confuse for foreign invaders and attack researchers at La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology said.

Inflammation plays a role in the buildup of plaque in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, which is responsible for most heart attacks and strokes. In a mouse study, researchers at La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology homed in on the immune cells know as CD4 T cells involved in the inflammatory activity in heart disease.

"The thing that excites me most about this finding is that these immune cells appear to have 'memory' of the molecule brought forth by the antigen-presenting cells," Dr. Klaus Ley, an expert in vascular immunology who led the study on mouse models, said in a press release. "Immune memory is the underlying basis of successful vaccines. This means that conceptually it becomes possible to consider the development of a vaccine for heart disease."

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, is only one step toward a vaccine; creating a vaccine takes years and money. But the data look promising. The theoretical vaccine could stop the inflammation component of heart disease and be used in conjunction with statins.

"Together, they could deliver a nice one-two punch that could be important in further reducing heart disease," he says.

- here's the release

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