People with autoimmune diseases such as lupus tend to also develop atherosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries which increases risk for stroke and heart attack. Clinical researchers have discovered that a specific class of immune cells called plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) is related to both conditions. These dendritic cells respond to genetic material released from damaged and dying cells by secreting interferon proteins which stimulate the immune reactions that underlie autoimmune diseases. Dendritic cells also play a part in the development of the deposits called atherosclerotic plaques on the walls of major arteries.
April 5, 2012