Targeting IL-1 in heart disease – all or one?

Atherosclerosis is the most common disease associated with ageing. Research in Sheffield over the last 10 years has shown that inflammation controlled by the cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) plays a central role in the development of atherosclerotic plaques. There are two main forms of the cytokine, alpha and beta, and a 3 year research grant of £300K from the British Heart Foundation awarded to Sheila Francis in the Department of Cardiovascular Science and colleague Emmanuel Pinteaux in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester aims to discover which form of IL-1, alpha or beta, is most important in atherosclerosis. This is vital because a large clinical trial called CANTOS is evaluating the effect of an antibody against IL-1 beta (only) in patients after heart attack. Sheffield is one of the UK study centres for this important trial.

Data accumulated from Sheffield and Manchester andIL-1 in atherosclerotic plaque recent work published in Nature Immunology show that the alpha form of IL-1 may have a more prominent role in coronary artery disease than was first thought. Joint working across the Pennines on IL-1 research has been established for sometime and this new project will use the latest transgenic techniques to study the separate roles of the IL-1 forms in experimental preparations.

Sheila Francis commented “Although I have been working in this area for over ten years, there are still several known unknowns and that’s what drives me and this whole research area forward. I hope that in the next 5-10 years we will see the introduction of anti-IL-1 therapies into the established treatment pathways for acute coronary syndromes”.