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Link identified between age, cardiovascular disease

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University have discovered a fundamental mechanism that causes aging blood vessels to lose their elasticity a literal "hardening of the arteries" that is often a prelude to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

An understanding of this mechanism, scientists say, provides an important new target for both drugs and dietary changes that might help prevent or treat atherosclerosis and heart disease. This is a leading cause of death around the world that, in some form, affects about 80 percent of older Americans.

The findings were just published in Aging Cell, a professional journal. The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the American Heart Association.

"This could ultimately provide a new, fundamental and possibly inexpensive way to treat or prevent high blood pressure," said Tory Hagen, an OSU associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics, and lead author on the study. "It's also a key to understanding the biological effects of inflammation, which increasingly seems to be implicated not only in heart disease but other chronic and neurologic diseases."

The research, which was done in test tubes and animal models, needs to be confirmed in humans before it could form the basis for new therapies. But the fundamental findings reveal an important insight into how blood vessels change with age and lose much of their ability to relax, contract, and facilitate the circulation of blood in the body.

Blood vessels in humans, like those of other animals, have vascular "smooth muscles" that can alternatively relax and contract to accommodate fluctuations in blood flow and volume. A thin layer of "endothelial cells" in the vessels serves, in part, as a sensor mechanism to help regulate this process. And proper fu
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Contact: Tory Hagen
tory.hagen@oregonstate.edu
541-737-5083
Oregon State University
2-Nov-2006


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