Study sheds new light on critical role of heart-derived macrophages
Researchers have identified for the first time the origin of an immune cell that plays a critical role in the formation of healthy heart valves. The findings could pave the way for new treatments for heart valve disorders, which can be caused by congenital defects, aging or disease.
Macrophages ("big eaters" in Greek) reside in tissues and travel around the body in the blood, seeking out and consuming harmful, damaged or unnecessary cells.
Previous research had shown that macrophages exist in the heart valves, but it was discovered their role there: eating up excess cells to make the valves paper-thin and hyper-efficient.
This process begins in the developing embryo and continues after birth; the macrophages remain in the valves to help keep them in shape throughout the lifecycle.
Macrophages were known to exist in heart valves, but nobody had nailed down when they arrived there and where they came from until we watched them develop in the heart tube.