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When the body is stressed, a fight-or-flight immune response can spur the overproduction of white blood cells--which can lead to a heart attack, according to new research published in Immunity.

Heart attacks are the major cause of death in people with diabetes.

White blood cells are usually deployed by the immune system to heal infection and injury, however this study revealed that overproduction of these cells can cause inflammation in blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke in people with diabetes.

The research was conducted in people and laboratory mice with diabetes.

"Mice and humans share very similar immune systems, which was the focus of the study. Another reason of choosing laboratory mice for studying diabetes is that is it easy to induce type 1 and type 2 diabetes in mice," Partha Dutta, D.V.M., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, said to ALN.

"The study established a previously unappreciated link between the nervous system and immune system in diabetes. This knowledge will potentially help us design drugs to diminish the deleterious effect of the nervous system on the immune system."

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