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discoveries magazine

Lupus and Heart Disease: A Deadly Duo

Many patients with the autoimmune disease lupus are dying from heart disease, and Cedars-Sinai experts in cardiology, immunology and rheumatology have joined forces to find out why. 

"Heart attacks and related cardiovascular diseases remain leading causes of early death for lupus patients—and about 9 out of 10 people with lupus are women."

Lupus damages the heart through inflammation, targeting such areas as the pericardium (the
sac surrounding the heart), muscle tissue and the tissue lining the heart’s inner walls.

Armed with half a million dollars in U.S. Department of Defense funding, the collaborative study is focused on a potential culprit: coronary microvascular dysfunction. The condition undercuts the ability of the small blood vessels to feed the heart muscle, which can result in chronic chest pain and heart failure.

Investigators aim to determine whether changes in the metabolism of immune cells in lupus patients reflect changes in their cardiovascular function.

They hope that combining advanced imaging and immunological approaches will identify lupus patients with a higher risk of heart disease.