Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 8th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Stress Release
30 June 2014

Stress Release

How do stressful situations trigger heart attacks? Researchers have now discovered a link: sticky bacteria. Areas of fatty deposits called plaques, which restrict blood flow through arteries, provide a site for bacteria to stick in a layer called a biofilm, shown here in red, with artery tissue in green. When we're stressed, the level of the ‘fight or flight’ hormone noradrenaline increases, which makes the heart beat faster. But bacteria respond to noradrenaline as well, releasing enzymes to unstick themselves – these enzymes can also unstick and dislodge the plaques, which can then block arteries, causing heart attacks and strokes. Understanding how these bacteria stick to the plaques and react to our stress signals could help researchers find a way to block this process, and reduce the chance of heart attacks in patients with heart disease.

Written by Emma Saxon

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.