MONDAY, March 28, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that may help improve our understanding of cardiovascular disease, researchers say endothelial cells, which line arteries, can produce C-reactive protein, a risk marker for heart disease.
Blood tests measuring C-reactive protein are becoming increasingly popular as a method of accurate detection of heart disease risk. It was already known that C-reactive protein is produced in the liver. The finding that endothelial cells also produce C-reactive protein may help explain how plaque begins to form in arteries, researchers explain. This is especially significant, since endothelial cells are supposed to protect arteries from C-reactive protein.
"This is an extremely important finding," researcher Ishwarlal Jialal, professor of pathology and internal medicine and director of the Laboratory for Atherosclerosis and Metabolic Research at the University of California, Davis Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.
"We have convincingly demonstrated in this paper that aortic and coronary artery endothelial cells produce and secrete C-reactive protein. We also showed within the artery, mature white cells, called macrophages, make chemical messengers, cytokines, which enhance the C-reactive protein secretion by endothelial cells at least 10-fold," Jialal said.
According to Jialal, this may mean that endothelial cells help foster buildup of C-reactive protein as plaque accumulates on the inside of artery walls. This process might even encourage plaque rupture, which can trigger heart attack or stroke, he said.
The findings appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Pathology.
Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death of Americans. This year, about 1.2 million people in the United States will have a coronary attack and about half a million of those people will die, according to the American Heart Association.
The American Medical Association has more about coronary artery disease.