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No one is “immune” from guilt: infamous cholesterol relinquishing deponent to famous triglycerides?

Bacterial and viral infections are not the only causes of inflammation of body tissue. It has been known for some time that certain fat molecules in our bloodstream can also trigger an inflammatory response. Patients with higher levels of these fats in their blood have a significantly greater chance of dying early from kidney damage or vascular disease. Doctors interested in ways to minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease have long had blood cholesterol levels in their sights. But other types of blood fats can also be damaging to health. This causal link has now been clearly demonstrated by an international team of researchers led by Dr. Timo Speer of Saarland University. The research team was able to show how these fat molecules interact with body cells and how they can mobilize the body’s own immune system to damaging effect. The study’s findings have now been published in the peer-reviewed prestigious journal Nature Immunology. The publication is one of the results of the diverse range of scientific investigations being carried out as part of a Transregional Collaborative Research Centre between Saarland University and RWTH Aachen University.

The focus of the work performed within the Collaborative Research Centre, is to discover which cardiac and vascular diseases can be caused by chronic kidney disease. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding this major research program with 10 million euros over a three-year period. Timo Speer is the lead researcher for one the research projects an has doctorates in Medicine as well as Biology, He is also a senior physician at Saarland University Hospital and laboratory director for experimental and translational Nephrology. The large-scale study was able to demonstrate that patients with elevated levels of triglycerides in their blood had a significantly higher mortality rate than comparison groups with a similar health history. The work has been able to show that when these naturally occurring fats are present at elevated concentrations they can alter our defense cells in such a way that the body reacts as if responding to a bacterial infection. This leads to inflammation, which, if it becomes chronic, can damage the kidneys or cause atherosclerosis – the narrowing of arteries due to arterial plaques.

And everyone knows that atherosclerosis is one of the main causes of heart attacks and strokes. The study has established a definitive link between the chronic inflammation triggered by an elevated triglyceride concentration in the blood and secondary diseases such as kidney failure or heart attack. Dr Speer explained: “Put another way, we can now say that adopting a low-fat diet can significantly extend the life expectancy of high-risk patients, such as those with diabetes or those whose blood pressure is too high. Blood triglyceride levels rise substantially in people who eat a high-fat diet. As a result of biochemical changes, the triglycerides develop toxic properties that activate the body’s innate immune system. This initiates a series of self-destructive processes including those in which the walls of the arteries are attacked and the blood vessels become occluded, reducing blood flow. We hope that our results will help in developing new strategies for treating and preventing these life-threatening diseases”.

  • Edited by Dr. Gianfrancesco Cormaci, PhD, specialist in Clinical Biochemistry

Scientific references

Amaral GA et al. Endocr Metab Imm Disord Drug Targets 2019 Nov 16. 

Ziv-Baran T et al., Rogowski O. Clinical Chim Acta 2019 Dec 6.

Simic B et al. Lüscher TF. Atherosclerosis 2017 Feb; 257:186-194. 

Dott. Gianfrancesco Cormaci
- Laurea in Medicina e Chirurgia nel 1998 (MD Degree in 1998) - Specialista in Biochimica Clinica nel 2002 (Clinical Biochemistry residency in 2002) - Dottorato in Neurobiologia nel 2006 (Neurobiology PhD in 2006) - Ha soggiornato negli Stati Uniti, Baltimora (MD) come ricercatore alle dipendenze del National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH) e poi alla Johns Hopkins University, dal 2004 al 2008. - Dal 2009 si occupa di Medicina personalizzata. - Guardia medica presso strutture private dal 2010 - Detentore di due brevetti sulla preparazione di prodotti gluten-free a partire da regolare farina di frumento immunologicamente neutralizzata (owner of patents concerning the production of bakery gluten-free products, starting from regular wheat flour). - Responsabile del reparto Ricerca e Sviluppo per la società CoFood s.r.l. (leader of the R&D for the partnership CoFood s.r.l.) - Autore di un libro riguardante la salute e l'alimentazione, con approfondimenti su come questa condizioni tutti i sistemi corporei. - Autore di articoli su informazione medica e salute sui siti web salutesicilia.com, medicomunicare.it e in lingua inglese sul sito www.medicomunicare.com
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