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An Immune Cell's Role in Atherosclerosis

Narrator: This is Science Today. Atherosclerosis is a process in which deposits of cholesterol, fatty substances and cellular waste products build up in the inner lining of an artery. The build-up itself is called plaque, which can restrict blood flow and cause a heart attack. Dr. Christopher Glass, a professor of cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California, San Diego, describes how the macrophage - a cell that normally plays a role in immunity - is a key cell in the development of the disease.

Glass: The macrophages are entering the artery wall and they're accumulating cholesterol and that makes what we call a macrophage foam cell. It's basically a fat macrophage - it's chock full of cholesterol. And that's kind of the hallmark of the early stages of atherosclerosis.

Narrator: Glass has been working to identify some of the molecular mechanisms that cause the disease to occur, in the hopes of pinpointing targets for new types of therapies.

Glass: One of the goals for the pharmaceutical industry is to continuously develop better classes of drugs that are more specific, more effective and have fewer side effects.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.