Scientists have identified a blood vessel creating gene that may be effective in the treatment of heart disease, strokes and cancer.
The gene is called Piezo1 and it allows the growth of new blood vessel networks based on changes in the blood flow.
According to researchers, it is possible to manipulate the gene to restrict the blood supply to particular cancers which need blood to flourish. It could be used in the treatment of atherosclerosis where narrowing arteries could lead to stroke and heart attack. Atherosclerotic plaques, which are deposits of plaque on artery walls, generally form where the blood flow has been hindered.
The lead scientist from Leeds University, Professor David Beech, said blood vessel networks are not pre-built, but spring up similar to a river system. Piezo1 gives instructions for the sensors which inform the body that the blood flow is adequate to form new vessel structures.
The gene provides these instructions to proteins which form the channels based on the strain from the blood flow. It produces small electrical charges which trigger the requirements for new vessels to be constructed.
Professor Beech said that further research is required to determine how the gene could be used to treat the diseases mentioned. He added that although the research is in its early stages, the results appear to be positive.
Associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said arteries are affected by the blood flow present and are more likely to be affected by disease in areas where there is inadequate glow.
He said the cells lining the arteries are particularly sensitive to blood flow and during response to any changes in the flow, disease may occur. A heart attack may be induced due to the narrowing of the arteries.
He added that very little has been known about the effect of blood flow on endothelial cells. The research done on mice indicates that a protein present in those cells may be vital to the detection and response to blood flow changes.
He said that by doing further research and using the knowledge acquired, the scientists hope to find out if a treatment could be developed which will target this process and stop the onset of the disease in healthy arteries.
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