Cholesterol crystals, heart inflammation linked, Michigan State study finds

Bacteria can attach and feed on cholesterol crystals, which can lead to the development of heart inflammation, a recent study published in PLOS ONE found. 

"This was not previously known," stated George Abela, MD, chief of Michigan State University's division of cardiology and the study’s senior author. "This is what we’ve pioneered here at Michigan State."

The study was published Feb. 18.

Researchers performed a series of experiments to assess in vitro bacterial adhesion to cholesterol crystals and proliferation in the presence of the crystals compared to controls. In another set of experiments, they assessed bacterial adhesion to atherosclerotic rabbit arteries compared to normal arteries, and human atherosclerotic carotid plaques compared to normal carotid arteries. 

"Bacteria are attracted to the crystals as a nutritional source," Dr. Abela stated in a news release from Michigan State. "We found the bacteria are attaching to and engorging on the crystals. That means the more crystals you have, the more bacteria are going to have a feast and grow."

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