Via EurekAlert!: "Most people probably know that heart disease remains the nation's No. 1 killer. But what many may be surprised to learn is that cholesterol has a major accomplice in causing dangerous arterial plaque buildup that can trigger a heart attack. The culprit? Inflammatory cells produced by the immune system. A number of research studies have demonstrated inflammation's role in fueling plaque buildup, also known as atherosclerosis, which is the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes, but knowledge of which immune cells are key to this process has been limited - until now. Researchers [have] identified the specific type of immune cells (CD4 T cells) that orchestrate the inflammatory attack on the artery wall. Further, the researchers discovered that these immune cells behave as if they have previously seen the antigen that causes them to launch the attack. ... The thing that excites me most about this finding is that these immune cells appear to have 'memory' of the molecule brought forth by the antigen-presenting cells. Immune memory is the underlying basis of successful vaccines. This means that conceptually it becomes possible to consider the development of a vaccine for heart disease. [Researchers believe] the antigen involved is actually a normal protein that the body mistakes as being foreign and therefore launches an immune attack resulting in inflammation in the arteries. ... Essentially, we're saying that there appears to be a strong autoimmune component in heart disease. Consequently, we could explore creating a 'tolerogenic' vaccine, such as those now being explored in diabetes, which could induce tolerance by the body of this self-protein to stop the inflammatory attack."