Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Vaccination against atherosclerosis; induction of protective CD8 T-cells through immunization

Atherosclerosis, in particular rupture of atherosclerotic plaques, is the underlying cause of most heart attacks or strokes and is the leading cause of death worldwide.

Bram Slütter

Development of atherosclerotic lesions and progression into vulnerable rupture-prone plaques is a multifactoral process and is primarily driven by hypercholesterolemia and chronic local inflammation. CD8 T-cells are abundant in the atherosclerotic plaques, but their role remains elusive. Although they are generally regarded as a cell type that promotes the growth and instability of the atherosclerotic plaques, recent data suggest that CD8 T-cells specific for antigens derived from LDL cholesterol can provide protection against atherosclerosis. 

Therefore, my research covers two questions; what is the role of CD8 T-cells in atherosclerotic plaques and can protective CD8 T-cells be induced through vaccination? By extracting CD8 T-cells from atherosclerotic plaques and analyzing both their phenotype and function we hope to gain insight into the role of CD8 T-cells in the plaque. These findings will play a major role in the subsequent design of atheroprotective vaccines, and allow us to select the optimal vaccine delivery system, administration route and adjuvant, as these factors greatly influences the number, type and location of the generated CD8 T-cells.    

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