Universiteit Leiden

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Single-cell immune profiling of atherosclerosis: from omics to therapeutics

Acute cardiovascular syndromes, including myocardial infarction or stroke, are the principal cause of death in the Western society. The main underlying pathology of cardiovascular diseases is atherosclerosis, which is caused by the accumulation of lipids and inflammatory cells in the vessel wall, in so-called atherosclerotic plaques.

M.A.C. Depuydt
28 maart 2024
Thesis in Leiden Repository

Current therapies mainly target the disturbed lipid homeostasis, but recent clinical trials have shown a clear benefit in treating patients with anti-inflammatory drugs. However, more specific targeting is required to avoid unwanted side effects. 

In this thesis, we have generated a detailed atlas of all the cells present in human atherosclerotic plaques using a novel state-of-the-art technique called single-cell RNA sequencing. This data set can be applied as a powerful tool to select potential drug targets with a functional relevance for atherosclerosis. We showed that the majority of the immune cells in the human atherosclerotic plaque consisted of T cells. Subsequently, we identified a pro-inflammatory population of T cells that likely responds to a plaque-derived antigen, suggesting that atherosclerosis has an autoimmune-like component. Finally, we have applied our single-cell atlas to define and validate targets to intervene with the recruitment and activation of mast cells and other immune cells in atherosclerosis.

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