Research identifies on-off switch for key 'factor' in heart disease and cancer

Apr 06, 2011

Scientists at the University of Hull have identified a cellular 'on-off' switch that may have implications for treating cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The team has found the mechanism which controls the inclusion of a protein called tissue factor into endothelial microparticles, tiny vesicles which are released from in the lining of blood vessels.

"Although tissue factor is part of the body's natural healing process, helping create clots to stop bleeding and repair injuries, high levels circulating in the blood stream can be harmful," says lead researcher Dr Camille Ettelaie. "Excessive tissue factor is linked to , including the formation of irregular and higher risk of thrombosis, leading to and stoke."

Dr Ettelaie and co-researcher Dr Mary Collier found that two tandem within tissue factor work like an 'on-off switch' within the cells, controlling how and when it is incorporated into the microparticles and released. When a phosphate molecule is added to the first one of these two amino acids, the process starts and when added to the other, it stops.

By blocking the addition of the phosphate to the first amino acid, the researchers were able to stop the process – opening up the possibility of controlling when and how much tissue factor is released in microparticles.

"The aim of the research was to see if there might be a way to control the output of tissue factor from endothelial cells into microparticles," says Dr Ettelaie "This project focused on the vascular system and is helpful in controlling , but tissue factor is also released in microparticles from cancer cells and linked to cell proliferation – so our findings could have implications for treating cancer as well.

"Tissue factor is exploited by cancer cells – they use it to speed up their growth directly, and also increase the growth of blood capillaries which supply the tumour with nutrients – but if levels of tissue factor are too high within a cell, then the cell will die. If we could use this switch to stop cancer cells getting rid of excess tissue factor, it might be possible to kill them without causing detrimental effect to the body's normal cells."

The findings from the research – which was partly funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research and the Castle Hill Hospital Cancer Trust Fund – are published in the latest issue of Journal of Biological Chemistry (April 8).

Explore further: Dead feeder cells support stem cell growth

Related Stories

Blood clotting finding may lead to new treatments

Feb 10, 2010

A key protein that causes the blood to clot is produced by blood vessels in the lungs and not just the liver, according to new research published today in the journal PLoS One, led by scientists at Imperial College London ...

Cancer exploits the body's wound-healing process

May 05, 2005

Scientists have known for the last decade that a link exists between wound healing and cancer. For instance, in a 1994 experiment at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, chickens infected with a cancer virus developed ...

Enhanced stem cells promote tissue regeneration

Oct 05, 2009

MIT engineers have boosted stem cells' ability to regenerate vascular tissue (such as blood vessels) by equipping them with genes that produce extra growth factors (naturally occurring compounds that stimulate tissue growth). ...

Recommended for you

Dead feeder cells support stem cell growth

Apr 24, 2015

Stem cells naturally cling to feeder cells as they grow in petri dishes. Scientists have thought for years that this attachment occurs because feeder cells serve as a support system, providing stems cells ...

Improving accuracy in genome editing

Apr 23, 2015

Imagine a day when scientists are able to alter the DNA of organisms in the lab in the search for answers to a host of questions. Or imagine a day when doctors treat genetic disorders by administering drugs ...

Drug research enhanced by fragment screening libraries

Apr 22, 2015

Generation of fragment screening libraries could enhance the analysis and application of natural products for medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, according to Griffith University's Professor Ronald Quinn.

Decoding the cell's genetic filing system

Apr 22, 2015

A fully extended strand of human DNA measures about five feet in length. Yet it occupies a space just one-tenth of a cell by wrapping itself around histones—spool-like proteins—to form a dense hub of ...

User comments : 0

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.