According to the Center for Disease Control [CDC], 659,000 people die yearly from heart-related diseases in the US alone. To put it differently, every 1 in 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. Every 36 secs, someone drops dead, no thanks to heart issues. And before, you start thinking that heart issues are only reserved for old folks, remember that 2 out of 10 deaths from heart issues kill young people [CDC]. No one is safe, not yet anyway. It even gets scarier as the CDC says every 1 in 5 attacks is silent; just does the damage and the victim has no idea what’s going on. That said, we can all agree that if we are going to turn the tides in our favor, heart disease needs adequate surveillance and treatment. Recent studies from Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC) show that there may be a way we can catch this heart issue before it turns into a full-blown heart attack.
Typical behavior of neutrophils and the risk of heart injuries
A research team led by Dr. Andrés Hidalgo from Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC) published this study in Nature. Essentially, the study revealed that in inflammation some cells behave in a certain harmful way, which differs from their behavior in non-inflammatory conditions.
According to Georgiana Crainicuc, one of the authors of this paper, neutrophils have been linked to a higher risk of heart diseases. Neutrophils are the most abundant white cells in the body, they are a pivotal part of the so-called innate immune or the first line of immune defense against offending organisms. Neutrophils increase both in number and activity when there is inflammation, this goes a long way to fight off infection, but in some cases, this approach can backfire as the neutrophils destroy healthy cells like heart cells. That can explain neutrophil involvement in cardiovascular disease.
It turns into a dilemma as we cannot remove neutrophils from the blood because will leave the system defenseless, and we can’t also allow the neutrophil activity to continue unabated.
The research team came to the rescue, by first identifying cells that can cause heart issues. Then they analyzed these cells using high-resolution intravital microscopy.
The scientists developed a powerful computerized system that enabled them to visualize the behavior of cells by taking note of changes in their size, movement, and shape. From the analysis three distinct inflammatory neutrophil behavior were spotted, however, only one was associated with cardiovascular disease. They made these deductions because of the characteristic size and closeness of the neutrophils to the vessel walls.
Synergizing this novel computational system with genetic analysis gave the scientist an unprecedented view, enabling them to identify the molecular interplay that led up to this. One particular molecule, Fgr, was recognized as the major culprit in inflammation.
Dr. Miguel Palomino-Segura, one of the authors, surmised “With current techniques, researchers can analyze of a large number of genes and molecules per cell, and this has enabled the discovery of numerous cell populations associated with the development of disease,”
At some point, the research team collaborated with Universidad Carlos III[ Madrid] engineers to push the limits and design technologies that will aid to view living tissues and measure some molecules.
However, work remains to be done, especially on the part of collating data and comparing data from different tissues. In addition, there are ample scientific areas where this new technology could be applied like cancer and infections.
Undoubtedly, this research provides valuable information that will be key to treating and managing cardiovascular issues. After satisfactory experimental results, targeted drugs production can now start in earnest. Humankind will be able to say goodbye to cardiovascular injury.
The study of the dynamism of the response of neutrophils to inflammation has opened up doors in the treatment of heart injury. This new research might not give us all the answers to a healthy heart but it is another step in the right direction. It is likely a strong foundation on which other successes and advancements will be built.