Mast Cells and Inflammatory Heart Disease: Potential Drug Targets
Inflammation underlies the pathogenesis of many common cardiovascular diseases (CVD) such as myocardial infarction, atherosclerosis, myocarditis and dilated cardiomyopathy. Allergic disorders like allergic rhinitis and asthma, both chronic inflammatory conditions, have recently been linked to increased CVD and death. Studies have found that increased IgE levels, eosinophilia, positive skin-prick tests, self-reported asthma and enzymes that regulate leukotriene synthesis (5-lipoxygenase) predict a high risk for atherosclerosis, stroke and myocardial infarction. Mast cells (MCs), cells involved in the pathogenesis of allergy and asthma, are emerging as key players in the regulation of inflammation and fibrosis in the heart and vasculature. Our laboratory has found that MC numbers are increased in mice susceptible to developing chronic dilated cardiomyopathy. The fibrosis associated with chronic heart disease is increased by MC degranulation. MCs can also act as antigen-presenting cells increasing inflammation in the heart through Toll-like receptor-4 signaling and increased proinflammatory cytokine production. Similar inflammatory mechanisms are observed for myocarditis and atherosclerosis. Many of the drugs currently used to reduce heart disease act on mediators/ pathways downstream of MC degranulation. An improved understanding of the role of MCs in regulating inflammation and fibrosis will enable researchers and clinicians to better treat heart disease.
Keywords: Myocarditis, atherosclerosis, inflammation, mast cells, fibrosis
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