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While working at his post doc at Oxford University, Dr. Akbar focuses on the signals the immune system uses and resulting actions through extracellular vesicles research.

He discusses:

  • How our body’s healing mechanisms post-heart attack can both benefit and undercut healthy arteries through immune-induced inflammation.
  • The difference between a healthy blood vessel and atherosclerosis plaque build up and how the epithelial cell cascade that the body sends to heal the area ends up progressing the inflammatory condition.
  • Why his research to turn on and off these inflammatory signals may aid in better healing from heart disease.

Dr. Naveed Akbar focuses on extracellular vesicles research and how the vesicles relate to metabolic disease. Atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks and strokes, tends to be much thicker in a diabetic patient. He believes this junction of immunological and metabolic disease is an important crossroads. 

He explains that while atherosclerosis builds up over decades due to many other lifestyle causes, we don’t understand is why diabetic patients are more apt to get fattier plaques that are more aggressive and more prone to rupture, which ends in the heart attack and stroke events.

Therefore, he has studied how immune systems responds to damage within the blood vessel and why immune cells accumulate within the wall of an artery to drive these attacks. They’ve discovered that as the monocytes try and engulf the fat in an artery, this action attracts more immune cells, causing more inflammation. Trying to understand what signals turn on and off the message to cause inflammation may lead to better healing.

Finally, he describes a current project: extracellular vesicles research into what happens after a heart attack and splint placement. Immune cells go to the heart and create more inflammation, which is harmful—a healing that has a defective element. Understand what’s controlling their switch is important therapeutically.

For more information, see his page on the Oxford University site: https://www.rdm.ox.ac.uk/people/naveed-akbar

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