Mutant gene identified as villain in hardening of the arteries

Dec 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: Scientists find 6 new genetic risk factors for Parkinson's disease

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

European Central Bank hit by data theft

8 minutes ago

(AP)—The European Central Bank said Thursday that email addresses and other contact information have been stolen from a database that serves its public website, though it stressed that no internal systems or market-sensitive ...

Nokia profits rise after sale of handset division

24 minutes ago

(AP)—Telecommunications and wireless equipment maker Nokia Corp. saw its shares surge on Thursday after it reported higher profits and an improved earnings outlook in the wake of its sale to Microsoft of its troubled handset ...

Twitter admits to diversity problem in workforce

2 hours ago

(AP)—Twitter acknowledged Wednesday that it has been hiring too many white and Asian men to fill high-paying technology jobs, just like several other major companies in Silicon Valley.

Recommended for you

Gene research targets scarring process

7 hours ago

Scientists have identified three genes that may be the key to preventing scar formation after burn injury, and even healing existing scars.

Researchers find new mechanism for neurodegeneration

Jul 24, 2014

A research team led by Jackson Laboratory Professor and Howard Hughes Investigator Susan Ackerman, Ph.D., have pinpointed a surprising mechanism behind neurodegeneration in mice, one that involves a defect in a key component ...

User comments : 0