SAN DIEGO (September 30, 2008) While cholesterol-lowering drugs and new technologies have significantly advanced the nation's battle against heart disease, it continues to rank as the No. 1 killer of U.S. men and women. But if researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology (LIAI) have their way, the body's immune system will become an important player in reducing heart disease.
"The statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) have taken a big chunk out of the numbers of people who suffer from heart disease and heart attacks," said Klaus Ley, M.D., director of the Institute's recently launched Inflammation Biology Division. "We hope we can bite off another chunk by controlling the impact of inflammation-causing immune cells on the artery wall."
Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., LIAI president & scientific director, said the Institute recruited Dr. Ley, one of the leading research experts in the field, to head the new division. "We are excited to have a scientist of Dr. Ley's stature lead our new Inflammation Biology Division," he said. "Its creation puts us in a very select group of immunology institutions worldwide that are exploring new ways of fighting heart disease using the immense power of the immune system."
Ley said the immune system's role in heart disease is a relatively recent finding, with the first inklings of its importance discovered in the early 1980s. Prior to that time, scientists believed that atherosclerosis, a blockage in the arteries and the underlying cause of most heart problems, was due to plaque formation caused solely by cholesterol buildup. "The scientific community used to think cholesterol alone led to plaque formation," Ley explained. "While it is true that cholesterol plays a major role, it is not the whole story."
Ley, an internationally recognized scientist who helped pioneer the scientific discipline of vascular immunology, which looks at novel immune-based approaches to heart
|Contact: Bonnie Ward|
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology