Cause of hardening of the arteries – and potential treatment – identified


12-06-2019
  False colour image of calcium phosphate deposits on bone  Credit: Melinda Duer

A team of UK scientists have identified the mechanism behind hardening of the arteries, and shown in animal studies that a generic medication normally used to treat acne could be an effective treatment for the condition.

The team, led by the University of Cambridge and King’s College London, found that a molecule once thought only to exist inside cells for the purpose of repairing DNA is also responsible for hardening of the arteries, which is associated with dementia, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

There is no current treatment for hardening of the arteries, which is caused by build-up of bone-like calcium deposits, stiffening the arteries and restricting blood flow to organs and tissues.

Supported by funding from the British Heart Foundation, the researchers found that poly(ADP ribose), or PAR, a molecule normally associated with DNA repair, also drives the bone-like calcification of arteries.

Additionally, using rats with chronic kidney disease, the researchers found that minocycline – a widely-prescribed antibiotic often used to treat acne – could treat hardening of the arteries by preventing the build-up of calcium in the circulatory system. The study, the result of more than a decade of fundamental research, is published in the journal Cell Reports.

“Artery hardening happens to everyone as they age, and is accelerated in patients on dialysis, where even children develop calcified arteries. But up until now we haven’t known what controls this process and therefore how to treat it,” said Professor Melinda Duer from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry, who co-led the research as part of a long-term collaboration with Professor Cathy Shanahan from King’s College London.

“This hardening, or biomineralisation, is essential for the production of bone, but in arteries it underlies a lot of cardiovascular disease and other diseases associated with ageing like dementia,” said Shanahan. “We wanted to find out what triggers the formation of calcium phosphate crystals, and why it seems to be concentrated around the collagen and elastin which makes up much of the artery wall.”

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Image: False colour image of calcium phosphate deposits on bone

Credit: Melinda Duer

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

 

The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

University of Cambridge