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Mannose Binding Lectin May Predict Heart Attack Risk

High Levels Of Mannose Binding Lectin May Protect Against Heart Disease


Updated December 10, 2008

Mannose binding lectin (MBL) is a protein that has only been known of for about two decades. The function of mannose bindng lectin is to help your body defend itself against pathogens. Scientists have now discovered that this protein may be a predictor to a person's risk of having a heart attack. This research was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

What Is Mannose Binding Lectin?

Mannose binding lectin is a protein that is made by the liver in response to an infection. Once mannose binding lectin has identified the foreign invader (like bacteria) in the body, it will do one of two things: it will either kill the pathogen through a particular immunological pathway, or it will attach to the pathogen in order to signify to the rest of the immune system that this organism does not belong in the body. From there, the other cells of the immune system will remove the pathogen from the body. This molecule is an important component of the innate immune response, which means this is usually the first molecule to respond when your body has an infection. Additionally, it is very nonspecific in its recognition, which means that it can recognize a variety of pathogens in the body. This differs from other cells of your immune system, like your antibodies, which only recognize one specific pathogen.

So, What Does Mannose Binding Lectin Have to Do with the Prediction of Heart Disease?

Previous studies have proven that inflammation of blood vessels may contribute to heart disease, leading to the possibility of a heart attack or stroke to due the blockage of arteries caused by a waxy plaque buildup. Mannose binding lectin plays an important role in getting rid of some of the mediators that cause inflammation.

What did this study involve and what were the results of this study?

Mannose binding lectin levels were analyzed in the blood of over 19000 patient recruited for another mannose binding lectin study in 1967. From these results, it appeared that individuals with high levels of mannose binding lectin were at a lower risk of having a heart attack. Conversely, individuals with low levels of mannose binding lectin were at a high risk of having a heart attack later on in life. This correlation was especially seen in diabetics, however, the results were not predictive in individuals who smoked or who had high blood pressure.

What Do These Results Suggest?

These results suggest that high levels of mannose binding lectin exert a protective effect against atherosclerosis. Mannose binding lectin may function in clearing the body of the inflammatory molecules that may contribute to atherosclerosis. Future work will need to be performed in order to determine a definite level of mannose binding lectin that would signify that an individual is at high risk for heart disease.
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