Finding points to a cause of chronic lung disease

Scientists have long suspected that respiratory viruses play a critical role in the development of chronic lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Studying mouse and cell models of this process, researchers now have shown how immune cells dispatched to the lung to destroy a respiratory virus can fail to disperse after their job is done, setting off a chain of inflammatory events that leads to long-term lung problems.

Immune cells may heal an injured heart

Researchers at the School of Medicine have shown that two major pools of immune cells are at work in the heart. Both belong to a class of cells known as macrophages. One appears to promote healing, while the other likely drives inflammation, which is detrimental to long-term heart function.

Cholesterol buildup links atherosclerosis and macular degeneration

A new study raises the intriguing possibility that drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol may be effective against macular degeneration, a blinding eye disease. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that age-related macular degeneration shares a common link with atherosclerosis. Both problems have the same underlying defect: the inability to remove a buildup of fat and cholesterol.

Inhibiting fatty acids in immune cells decreases atherosclerosis risk

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a way to significantly reduce atherosclerosis in mice that does not involve lowering cholesterol levels or eliminating other obesity-related problems. Atherosclerosis is the process through which fatty substances, such as cholesterol and cellular waste products accumulate in the lining of arteries. The research team inhibited atherosclerosis in the mice by interfering with production of a substance called fatty acid synthase, an enzyme that converts dietary sugars into fatty acids in the liver.