Dr. Maria Febbraio, a foundational science researcher at the University of Alberta School of Dentistry, has recently added to the existing research showing that patients with untreated periodontal disease are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
In her research, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, Dr. Febbraio identified a new receptor on cells that interacts with bacteria in the mouth causing periodontal disease. This new receptor, called CD36, interacts with toll-like receptors—the immune system’s early-warning sentinels against infection—to produce a protein called interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β). The IL-1β then increases inflammation, which plays a role in both periodontal disease and atherosclerosis, providing a direct link between the 2 diseases.
“Other studies established the link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease and showed that toll-like receptors were involved. But this study recognizes CD36 as an essential co-receptor in the inflammatory response,” says Dr. Febbraio. “Now that we have an idea of the players involved, we can try to direct therapies more specifically to avoid the unwanted side effects of medication used to treat inflammation.”
With hope to further develop the research and ultimately find a way to treat or stop the progression of heart disease by targeting these receptors, Dr. Febbraio adds, “We can specifically try to intervene in the interaction between CD36 and toll-like receptors to block the inflammatory response to the bacteria. Our studies identify CD36 as a new potential therapeutic target.”
(Source: University of Alberta; June 25, 2015)