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In the Heart Research Institute (HRI) Atherosclerosis and Vascular Remodelling Group, PhD student Alexander Lin and his supervisor Dr Ashish Misra have published a paper on how cardiovascular diseases are linked to clonal expansion in JACC: Basic to Translational Science.

This review was conducted in collaboration with world leaders in atherosclerosis research, including Profs Andrew Baker (University of Edinburgh, UK), Edward Fisher (New York University, USA) and Stefanie Dimmeler (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany), with Alexander Lin as first author.

Atherosclerosis, the main underlying cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD), is the process in which plaques that are made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances build up in the walls of arteries. It is most serious when it occurs in arteries to the heart or to the brain, as this can lead to heart attack or stroke.

During atherosclerosis and other CVDs, cells within the blood vessels undergo a phenomenon known as clonal expansion, whereby a select few cells disproportionately respond during disease.

These cells are con­sid­ered as first respon­ders’ of CVD.

The published article comprehensively discusses what is currently known about clonal expansion of these ‘first responders’ across the cardiovascular field as well as the potential clinical implications of these findings. The researchers suggest that proper understanding and specific targeting of clonal cells may provide unique therapeutic options to treat CVDs.

The highlights of the paper include the following.

  • Smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, and sometimes macrophages undergo clonal expansion in a variety of CVDs, irrespective of their differing microenvironments.
  • Many of these clones exhibit disease-protective or disease-burdening properties, which appears to be disease-dependent.
  • Although the sources of these clones are debated, a stem-cell-like population within the vasculature might be responsible.
  • The underlying mechanisms responsible for clonal expansion are still mostly unknown.
  • Specific targeting of clones offers promise for future therapeutic options for CVD treatment.

JACC: Basic to Translational Science is one of a family of specialist journals launched by the renowned Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).

Header image: PhD student Alexander Lin, Atherosclerosis and Vascular Remodelling Group

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