Autoimmunity Targets the Heart as Well
People with type 1 diabetes are 13 times as susceptible to premature death after a heart attack as those without the disease. A small study may have discovered one clue as to why. Researchers found cardiac autoantibodies, hallmarks of an immune system strike against the heart, in 83 percent of 18 heart attack survivors with type 1 diabetes, but in only 15 percent of 20 survivors with type 2. The autoantibodies were essentially absent in people without diabetes or no history of heart attack. The small study does not prove cause and effect. Type 1 itself is triggered by an immune system attack on the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. This study suggests, as others have, that people with one autoimmune disease are prone to develop others. The good news is that there may be ways to teach the wayward immune system to tolerate damaged hearts.
Source: Science Translational Medicine, June 13, 2012