It has already been identified that periodontitis increases the risk of developing diseases like heart disease. Now, a study led by Torbjön Bengtsson from Örebro University, Sweden, has highlighted how periodontal disease interacts with the body to increase the risk of heart disease.
The team highlighted how the periodontal pathogen, Porphyromonas gingivalis, causes changes in gene expression that boost inflammation and atherosclerosis in aortic smooth muscle cells.
This periodontal pathogen has also been found in coronary artery plaques of heart attack patients, as well being found to cause and accelerate formation of coronary and aortic atherosclerosis.
The team began by culturing human aortic smooth muscle cells, and infecting with P. gingivalis. They found that gingipains, virulence factors produced by P. gingivalis, boost expression of the pro-inflammatory angiopoietin 2, while dampening expression of the anti-inflammatory angiopoietin 1 in the smooth muscle cells, with the net effect of increasing inflammation. Inflammation is strongly implicated in atherosclerosis.
The authors of the report wrote: “Although unstimulated [aortic smooth muscle cells] produce angiopoietin 2 at a low level, stimulation with wild-type P. gingivalis dramatically increases the gene expression of angiopoietin 2 in [aortic smooth muscle cells].”
Boxi Zhang, a PhD student in Bengtsson’s laboratory, commented: “Angiopoietin 2 directly increases the migration of aortic smooth muscle cells. The migration of smooth muscle cells is involved in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis.
“Our research clarifies the mechanism behind the association of periodontits and cardiovascular disease. Our aim is to find biomarkers that can help us diagnose and treat both diseases.”