The heart as an immunologic organ: Cardiac myocytes in innate immunity

It’s well established that severe infection in critically ill patients can result in heart damage, but what causes this damage is unclear. One possibility is that heart muscle recognizes and responds to infectious pathogens and their products, triggering events within heart cells that ultimately lead to heart failure. Dr. John Boyd is researching the link between serious infection and cardiac dysfunction. The immune system uses Toll-like receptors to recognizes infectious products. Boyd aims to establish the role and function of Toll-like receptors in the heart, and what response occurs in heart muscle cells when incubated with infectious pathogens that are known to activate these receptors. Because Toll-like receptors also recognize and respond to tissue damage arising from ischemic heart disease (when there is a decrease in the blood supply to the heart caused by constriction or obstruction of the blood vessels) and heart transplant rejection, the research could have relevance beyond cardiac response to acute infection. Ultimately, Boyd aims to provide novel insights into the connection between the heart and immunity, which could lead to the development of new strategies to improve outcomes in diseases that involve inflammatory responses of the heart.