An article entitled “A New Culprit in Atherosclerosis”, published on ScienceDaily.com on January 9th 2012, speaks about a new discovery in the search for a “cure” for Heart Disease.
“We have discovered that macrophages that accumulate in plaques secrete a molecule called netrin-1,” said Kathryn J. Moore, PhD, senior author of the study and associate professor in the Departments of Medicine and Cell Biology at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Our study shows that netrin-1 blocks the normal migration of macrophages out of arteries, causing these immune cells to accumulate and promote the progression of atherosclerosis.”
Artery plaques that break off causing vessel blockages, or potentially fatal heart attacks and strokes are known to have high macrophage cell content. Atherosclerosis is fueled by the presence of these cholesterol-laden macrophages in the artery wall. Typically, the immune system sends macrophages to clean up cholesterol deposits in arteries, but once they fill up with the unhealthy form of cholesterol they get stuck in the arteries, triggering the body’s inflammatory response. The bloated macrophages then become major components of plaque lining artery walls. Until now, the mechanism by which macrophages become trapped has remained unknown.
In this new study, researchers show why macrophages remain in artery plaques leading to atherosclerosis. Netrin-1 promotes atherosclerosis by retaining macrophages in the artery wall. In fact, netrin-1 signals macrophages to stop migrating and as a result these cells accumulate within the plaque. In addition, study experiments show, genetically deleting netrin-1 can minimize atherosclerosis, reduce the level of macrophages in plaque and promote the migration of macrophages from plaques.
“Our study identifies netrin-1 as a novel target for future therapeutic intervention for the treatment of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease,” said Janine M. van Gils, PhD, lead author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher in the Marc and Ruti Bell Vascular Biology and Disease Program, Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. “This discovery provides new clues to help reduce the amount of plaque in arteries and the threat of atherosclerosis, a major cause of mortality in Western countries. The development of a new strategy to diminish macrophage accumulation in plaque offers great promise to reducing the occurrence of fatal cardiac events.”
While I find this new discovery to be a positive thing, I still see it as another seemingly misguided attempt to “intervene” in to a process that has already begun, while neglecting to identify and eliminate the cause.
The macrophages don’t just hang around in the arteries for no reason. They’re not just all sitting around, having a fun little macrophage get together; they are there, because their job is to clean up dead stuff, which in this case is arterial plaque. Have these researchers really found a new culprit in atherosclerosis, or just another link in the chain? What causes the plaque in the first place? In my opinion, it’s the overabundance of fragile and easily oxidized polyunsaturated fatty Acids (PUFAs) in the Western Diet….or the S.A.D (Standard American Diet) as we call it…..that are the true cause of the plaque. The PUFAs induce inflammation and damage in the artery walls, creating tiny cracks in them that are just large enough to allow small and dense Lipoproteins to become trapped, and build up over time to form plaque deposits.
An easy way around this is simply to avoid as many unsaturated fats as possible. Saturated fat is our friend. Make sure that the majority of your fat intake is from animal sources, not plant sources, and you should be able to avoid plaque building up in your arteries. I don’t know that for sure, because no one does, but it sounds logical, doesn’t it? Let’s not forget that avoiding gluten-containing grains is a good idea too, and will definitely help avoid inflammation!
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Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
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