Mutant gene identified as villain in hardening of the arteries

December 18, 2007

A genetic mutation expands lesions in the aorta and promotes coronary atherosclerosis, more commonly known as hardening of the arteries, according to a study by Yale School of Medicine in Cell Metabolism.

The researchers found that mice engineered without the Akt1 gene and fed a high cholesterol diet had many more signs of aortic atherosclerosis compared to their littermates. And, surprisingly, their coronary lesions were similar to humans, say the scientists.

“About 20 percent of the mice died spontaneously, perhaps due to an acute heart attack,” said William Sessa, senior author of the study, professor of pharmacology, and director of Yale’s vascular biology and therapeutics program.

Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory response in arterial walls, in large part due to deposits of lipoproteins—which are plasma proteins that carry cholesterol and triglycerides. The "hardening" or "furring" of the arteries is caused by plaque formation.

In the vascular wall, Akt plays an important role in regulating the development of endothelial cells, which line the entire circulatory system, from the heart to the smallest capillary. Endothelial cells play an important role in regulating blood pressure, in blood clotting, in plaque formation in the arteries, and in formation of new blood vessels.

“The major finding of this study is that an absence of Akt1 aggravates atherosclerotic lesions, promotes coronary atherosclerosis, and may be a model of acute coronary syndromes,” Sessa said. “Specific activation of Akt1 may provide a therapeutic approach to decrease formation of lesions in the arterial wall and promote plaque stabilization to prevent an acute heart attack.”

One concern, he said, is that specific drugs are being developed to inhibit Akt in cancer patients to reduce progression of tumors, and that these drugs may also promote hardening of the arteries.

Source: Yale University

Explore further: Emerging interventional radiology treatment with drug-eluting stents saves limbs

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.