Atherosclerosis is the build up of fatty deposits called plaques inside the walls of arteries (a cross-section of an artery is pictured). This causes the arteries to narrow and can disrupt the flow of blood around the body. Scientists saw that immune cells called macrophages (stained turquoise) fight to clear the plaques and deposit the built-up waste proteins in a cellular ‘trash can’, with the help of a molecule called p62. By exposing the macrophages to certain types of fats, the team found that they can no longer dispose of the waste, and it begins to accumulate, along with p62. This aggregation of waste proteins is similar to the build up that occurs in brain cells in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, suggesting that improving the trash removal process might be an effective therapeutic approach for these devastating diseases.
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