Inflammatory heart disease is a rising concern worldwide. Similar mechanisms link autoimmune diseases, including the association of increased disease with proinflammatory cytokines and the importance of regulatory mechanisms in the control of chronic inflammation. Many pathogens including bacteria, protozoa and viruses have been associated with heart disease in patients, and are able to induce similar disease in animal models. Recognition of pathogens by the innate immune system leads to release of proinflammatory cytokines that both reduce infection and increase chronic inflammatory heart disease. Elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines are able to overcome tolerance to chronic disease, indicating that environmental factors are important in determining progression to chronic heart disease. Understanding the mechanisms leading to chronic heart disease will be critical for developing effective therapies to reduce cardiac dysfunction and heart failure.
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