Copper chelation is a promising new therapy for clogged arteries

Researchers at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI) in Scarborough, Maine, announce their discovery that the renarrowing of arteries following balloon angioplasty can be halted by copper chelation therapy. Preventing the function of copper in the body stops arteries from reclogging following the mechanical stress of removing arterial obstructions through angioplasty. The therapy works by limiting the cellular export of growth factors and cytokines involved in this process.

"This represents a major contribution to medical science," said Kenneth A. Ault, M.D., Director of MMCRI. "This finding could be ready for widespread clinical use in humans in a very few years."

Thomas Maciag, Ph.D. and his team of scientists at MMCRI's Center for Molecular Medicine led a team of investigators from the Netherlands and Bulgaria, including scientists from Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. They discovered that the function of copper is necessary for restenosis, and that after angioplasty or stent surgery is performed, the presence of copper in cells of the artery enables the regrowth of cells from within the injured vessel. This process recloses the artery in about 30% of cases, requiring more surgery with its inherent expense and risk to the patient.

"Maciag and colleagues appear to have solved a long-lingering paradox in the field of growth factor biology," commented Dr. Elazer R. Edelman, Director of Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "Their imaginative work may provide novel treatment modalities for a range of critical diseases."

This work was published in a preeminent journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 27, 2003, in the paper "Copper Chelation Represses the Vascular Response to Injury."

The scientists at MMCRI found that the commonly available reagent TTM (tetrathiomolybdate), which is a specific copper chelator, stopped inflammation and growth of the unwanted new ti

Contact: Wayne L. Clark
Maine Medical Center

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