The researchers also identified characteristic clusters of genes expressed at distinct phases of disease progression. The Duke cardiologists and geneticists believe that the findings of their latest experiments represent a new paradigm for understanding and potentially treating atherosclerosis. They said their finding represents the first time the progression of any chronic disease has been linked to a deficiency in the body's repair machinery.
Atherosclerosis is marked by the thickening and clogging of blood vessels, which over time can deprive the heart of necessary oxygen and nutrients. While risk factors such as poor diet, smoking, high cholesterol levels and inactivity are important in developing atherosclerosis, the researchers now believe that heredity plays a crucial role in how the body responds to these environmental factors.
"These results provide us with an intriguing new understanding of the disease process involved in atherosclerosis," said Duke cardiologist Pascal Goldschmidt, M.D., senior member of the research team and chairman of Duke's Department of Medicine. The results of the Duke studies were published early on-line and will appear in the Nov. 15, 2005, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
"It appears that the disease progresses as the body's intrinsic ability to repair and rejuvenate itself somehow becomes deficient," Goldschmidt continued. "It is exciting for us think that if we as physicians could somehow stimulate or maintain a successful repair process in heart patients, we might be able to prevent the development of atherosclerosis even if we can't completely control other
Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center