Autophagy and cardiovascular disease
The research is about cardiovascular disease, which is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The main culprit is atherosclerosis, which is characterized by accumulation of lipids and connective tissues as well as proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells in the arteries accompanied by local inflammation. An important control mechanism for the quality of cells and survival in the vessel wall is autophagy, which is a highly conserved self-protecting process as cellular response to stress, in which cellular components are self-consumed and recycled for downstream metabolism. Autophagy has also been shown to be involved in lipid handling inside the cells and how the inflammatory response is regulated. However, the role of autophagy in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis in humans is largely unknown.
The overall objective is to identify which factors are of importance for the interplay between lipid metabolism, inflammation and autophagy in cardiovascular disease. We are focusing on how lipid handling in macrophages affects inflammation and autophagy during the atherosclerosis process. We are also aiming at identifying factors/proteins in the autophagy process that are of relevance for the development of vulnerable plaques and/or progression of atherosclerosis in the vessel wall. The objective is to provide new therapeutic approaches to reduce cardiovascular disease.