According to Medical Press, a group of researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada have discovered a way that blood cells communicate with cells called monocytes that help regulate inflammation and cardiovascular disease. The cells send out little packets of microRNAs with which they are saturated by healthy endothelial cells, which tell other cells how they should behave. When the microRNAs are picked up by the monocytes, the cells tamp down on the degree of inflammation, thus preventing the onset of cardiovascular disease.
Endothelial cells are what comprise the thin layers of blood vessels. The theory is that when the endothelial cells become diseased, they fail to put out the self-regulating microRNAs, thus causing inflammation that leads to cardiovascular disease. The University of Toronto research team will next examine how this process works when the blood vessels are diseased, confirming or refuting the hypothesis.
If the researchers confirm that endothelial cells in diseased blood vessels are not putting out the microRNA necessary to tamp down inflammation, a whole new treatment for coronary heart disease could be developed. Physicians, finding that the anti-inflammatory microRNA is missing in people with heart disease, can simply add them back, reprogramming them to target the inflamed portions of the cardiovascular system, thus treating the disease.
The mode of communication may have applications for other diseases. Do endothelial cells communicate with cancer tumors? If so, can the microRNA be programmed to attack the cancers? There are potential applications for other diseases as well, ranging from diabetes to atherosclerosis.
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