Genes that protect against atherosclerosis identified

Mar 14, 2008

One way of combating atherosclerosis is to reduce levels of “bad cholesterol” in the blood. Scientists at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have now identified the genes that bring about this beneficial effect.

In a new study on mice, which is presented in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, the research group has shown that the accumulation of the plaque that causes myocardial infarction and stroke can be prevented if levels of the “bad” LDL cholesterol are reduced before atherosclerotic plaque has progressed beyond a particular point. The group has also identified a network of 37 genes that lowers levels of blood cholesterol and brings about the beneficial effect.

“Previously, much atherosclerosis research was focused on identifying ways to stabilise the most dangerous plaques in order to prevent them rupturing and causing myocardial infarction or stroke,” says Associate Professor Johan Björkegren, who has led the study. “Our discovery means that we can now target the actual development of dangerous plaques.”

Rather than covering individual vessel wall genes, their discovery encompasses a network of genes, and one that explains their mutual interaction. It is on account of years of network algorithm development under Jesper Tegnér, professor of computational biology, that the discovery of gene networks has been made possible.

“The time when individual genes or gene pathways were thought to explain the development of complex common diseases, such as atherosclerosis, is past,” says Dr Björkegren. “We now have enough tools and knowledge of system biology to take on the total complexity of these diseases.”

Atherosclerosis is the main cause of myocardial infarction and stroke, which cause almost half of all deaths in Sweden and other countries in the West.

Publication: ‘Transcriptional Profiling Uncovers a Network of Cholesterol-Responsive Atherosclerosis Target Genes’, Josefin Skogsberg, Jesper Lundström, Alexander Kovacs, Roland Nilsson, Peri Noori, Shohreh Maleki, Marina Köhler, Anders Hamsten, Jesper Tegnér, Johan Björkegren, PLoS Genetics, 14 March 2008. www.plosgenetics.org/doi/pgen.1000036

Source: Karolinska Institutet

Explore further: Assortativity signatures of transcription factor networks contribute to robustness

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists tie DNA repair to key cell signaling network

Jun 15, 2012

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers have found a surprising connection between a key DNA-repair process and a cellular signaling network linked to aging, heart disease, cancer and other chronic conditions. ...

Researchers discover how natural drug fights inflammation

Dec 09, 2010

Researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech have discovered how abscisic acid, a natural plant hormone with known beneficial properties for the treatment of disease, helps fight inflammation. The ...

Bioengineer is on the trail of cellular mysteries

May 12, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Working at the intersection of engineering and biology, faculty member Mohammad Mofrad is seeking to answer fundamental questions about the the biomechanics of human cells. His work may one ...

Recommended for you

Mutation disables innate immune system

Aug 29, 2014

A Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich team has shown that defects in the JAGN1 gene inhibit the function of a specific type of white blood cells, and account for a rare congenital immune deficiency that ...

Study identifies genetic change in autism-related gene

Aug 28, 2014

A new study from Bradley Hospital has identified a genetic change in a recently identified autism-associated gene, which may provide further insight into the causes of autism. The study, now published online in the Journal of ...

NIH issues finalized policy on genomic data sharing

Aug 27, 2014

The National Institutes of Health has issued a final NIH Genomic Data Sharing (GDS) policy to promote data sharing as a way to speed the translation of data into knowledge, products and procedures that improve health while ...

The genes behind the guardians of the airways

Aug 27, 2014

Dysfunctions in cilia, tiny hair-like structures that protrude from the surface of cells, are responsible for a number of human diseases. However the genes involved in making cilia have remained largely elusive. ...

User comments : 0