Inflammatory pathways could be key to resolving heart disease and depression link

March 24, 2016 by Bridgette Whittle

Heart health scientists are working to establish therapies to combat the physical link between cardiovascular disease and depression.

A team from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute's (SAHMRI) Heart Health division started the research late last year and says the link could potentially be caused by inflammatory pathways.

It has been known for several years that the prevalence of depression is high in patients with but the exact cause and specific treatments are yet to be established.

Rates of of about 15 per cent have been reported in patients after or coronary artery bypass grafting.

SAHMRI Senior Postdoctoral Researcher Belinda Di Bartolo said the inflammation that occurs in the heart as a result of cardiovascular disease could signal inflammatory responses in the and vice versa.

"It can have an effect on the central nervous system that may regulate cytokine levels that have been shown to mediate inflammation in the brain during depression," she said.

"We believe that could be the link between depression and heart disease.

"We need to understand which are involved and identify those that show similar responses in both the brain and the heart.

"Anything that we can identify as being a causative link would be something that could be targeted as a therapeutic strategy."

SAHMRI opened in late 2013 and is in the new Adelaide BioMed City precinct, a $3 billion tripartite health hub comprising a soon-to-be-completed major hospital, research centres and educational institutions.

The research institute is home to about 600 researchers working across seven sectors that include Heart Health; Infection & Immunity; Aboriginal Health; Mind and Brain; Cancer; Healthy Mothers, Babies & Children; Nutrition and Metabolism.

Dr Di Bartolo said a small team of three or four researchers were working on the project but that number would likely grow as collaborations were developed.

She said the research could potentially have ramifications for thousands of patients worldwide "if we can get to the bottom of it".

"Ultimately if we can identify something involved in both (heart and brain) that can be targeted for treatment we could progress the research further towards clinical trials," Dr Di Bartolo said.

The research is also looking at the influence of the gut and how the bacterial flora there can play a role.

"We're looking at it from a three-fold heart, brain, gut axis and how all three of those inflammatory instigators combine to cause this worsening condition.

"Not only are we looking at the heart and brain response but we are also trying to understand how the gut bacteria can play a role in regulating health and disease with regard to the brain and the gut.

"People are under stress and that can influence gut flora. All of our environmental factors can influence what's going on in our gut and whether or not that can play a role in mediating the is something that has been suggested to influence anxiety and depression but whether or not it has an effect on the heart is something that we are trying to understand as well."

Explore further: Exercise reduces heart disease risk in depressed patients

Related Stories

Exercise reduces heart disease risk in depressed patients

January 11, 2016

Symptoms of mild to minimal depression were associated with early indicators of heart disease in a research letter published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, but the study found regular exercise ...

You are what you eat: How gut bacteria affect brain health

January 22, 2015

The hundred trillion bacteria living in an adult human—mostly in the intestines, making up the gut microbiome—have a significant impact on behavior and brain health. The many ways gut bacteria can impact normal brain ...

Recommended for you

Researchers find new potential route to treat asthma

February 6, 2017

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine believe they have isolated a protein that, when missing or depleted, can cause airway constriction, production of mucus, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing for the 334 million ...

Omega-3 supplements can prevent childhood asthma

December 29, 2016

Taking certain omega-3 fatty acid supplements during pregnancy can reduce the risk of childhood asthma by almost one third, according to a new study from the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.