Immune therapies for heart disease aim of international research network – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Inflammatory cells are visible as colored areas in this PET scan of a person’s torso, with brighter colors indicating denser cell clusters. A bright spot on the heart indicates that inflammatory cells are clustered around a site that has lost blood supply, causing a heart attack. An international team of researchers, including scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has formed a network to study the role of inflammation in heart disease, with a goal of finding new therapies to improve recovery after heart attacks.

When a patient arrives in the emergency room with symptoms of a heart attack, doctors’ first priority is to restore blood flow to the heart muscle. Over the past few decades, therapeutic advances aimed at getting blood flowing and reducing strain on the heart have improved patients’ chances of surviving heart attacks to more than 90% from 50%.

However, survivors face a heightened risk of future heart attacks and heart failure, and current therapies do not optimally reduce those long-term risks. Even a brief cutoff of blood supply can trigger an inflammatory response that weakens the heart and leaves it with lasting scars.

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