Scientists from the Cardiovascular Research Network (RECAVA) have identified a molecule - the CCL20 - that attracts and directs the cells of the immune system to the arterial wall to form the atherosclerotic plaques that cause arteriosclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by a progressive hardening of the arteries, which narrow so that it can lead to its occlusion, thus preventing blood flow.

It was already known that the immune system played a prominent role in the formation of cholesterol plaques that cause inflammation of the walls of the arteries but not what was the mechanism involved in the attraction of the cells of the immune system to the arterial wall to form those atherosclerotic plaques.

107 healthy people participated in the study and underwent an ultrasonographic examination of the carotid arteries to detect the presence of the disease in its early stages, which is known as subclinical atherosclerosis. The researchers found that high levels of blood cholesterol (240 mg / dL) were related to an increase in the production of a molecule called CCL20.

The CCL20 molecule has the capacity to attract and stimulate the functioning of T lymphocytes, which are the cells of the immune system responsible for the inflammation of the wall of the blood vessels.

The study has also shown that the arteries of patients with atherosclerosis synthesize and release CCL20, and that the molecule is made primarily by the muscle cells of the arteries in response to an increase in cholesterol bad or LDL.

New treatment possibilities

The discovery of the function that meets the CCL20 can serve to create new treatments that are based on avoiding the intervention of the immune system in the development of arteriosclerosis

The study of the RECAVA according to the magazine has published Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, of the American Heart Association, is the first scientific research that describes an early increase of the CCL20 in patients with a cardiovascular risk higher, and that analyzes the molecular mechanism that serves the LDL to stimulate its production.

According to the authors of the work, the most important thing for people who suffer arteriosclerosis is that lysophosphatidic acid or LPA acts through specific receptors, and that if it is blocked using drugs, the muscle cells' response to LDL is reduced.

This means that the CCL20 molecule could be useful as biomarker of evolution of cardiovascular disease, but above all, and according to these researchers, could open the way to the creation of new and pioneering treatments, based on which said molecule can avoid the intervention of the immune system in arteriosclerosis, and in this way delay the development of the pathology.


Atherosclerosis (2009) (November 2019).