Haywire T cells attack protein in "bad" cholesterol
Researchers describe a group of T cells that attack a protein called apolipoprotein B (APOB). APOB is the main protein component of LDL, or "bad," cholesterol. Dangerous plaques can form in the arteries as LDL levels increase in the bloodstream. These plaques can drive inflammation, block blood flow, and even break apart to trigger strokes and heart attacks.

T cells that target APOB may contribute to inflammation and further the progression of atherosclerosis. In fact, follow-up experiments in mice showed that as the disease gets worse, a phenomenon called T cell "expansion" leads to more and more of these APOB-reactive T cells in the bloodstream. Researchers analyzed blood samples from eight women in a diverse cohort of women in their 50s and 60s (volunteers in the NIH-funded Women's Interagency HIV Study).

The LJI team collaborated with scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine to carefully analyze more than 12,000 T cells from these patients using two cutting edge techniques: single-cell RNA sequencing and T cell receptor sequencing. In this huge pool of T cells, 110 cells stood out, and the scientists found these cells were capable of targeting APOB.

As they zoomed in further, the researchers found that the T cells targeting APOB resemble a type of T cell called a regulatory T cell (Treg), which normally regulates inflammation. Yet these T cells weren't behaving like normal Tregs. It appears that these new T cells develop a new identity as heart disease develops. This study is good news for the future of treating heart disease.

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s44161-022-00063-3