Shaping the outcome of viral-mediated autoimmune myocarditis

Coxsackievirus infections can cause a variety of illnesses, including heart disease. In North America, the coxsackievirus is estimated to cause up to 30 percent of new cases of dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes enlarged and pumps less strongly. Dr. Marc Horwitz is studying how viruses such as coxsackievirus can induce autoimmune diseases such as chronic heart disease, and how immune system components shape and control development of the disease. Studies have shown that the body’s immune response has a profound effect on the development of chronic heart disease after infection with the virus, revealing that immune cells and antibodies that attack infection also damage heart tissues. Dr. Horwitz is examining how innate and adaptive immune responses following viral infection contribute to development of chronic heart disease. He will use findings from the study to design and test new methods to prevent heart disease, which could also lead to new treatments.