Inhibiting Growth Of New Blood Vessels Reduces Heart Disease Plaque In Mice

that require blood vessels in order to grow. These agents are also being investigated in studies of humans who have a type of sight-robbing macular degeneration associated with the proliferation of abnormal new blood vessels in the eye.

While angiogenesis inhibitors are being used in cancer and vision research studies, heart disease investigations are focusing on angiogenesis promoters. In the heart research, scientists are testing in humans certain genes and their protein products that promote angiogenesis. The goal of this research is to circumvent coronary arteries obstructed by the plaque deposits that characterize atherosclerosis, the disease process that causes heart disease.

Very tiny blood vessels called capillaries can grow from the artery wall and invade plaque. Whether these vessels promote plaque growth is uncertain. The Circulation paper provides the "most persuasive evidence to date" that these new blood vessels are a prerequisite for plaque expansion, says Jeffrey M. Isner, M.D., in an editorial accompanying the paper. Isner is chief of vascular medicine and cardiovascular research, department of medicine, St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, Boston, and professor of medicine and pathology, Tufts Medical School, Boston.

Does this evidence suggest that gene and protein treatments designed to promote angiogenesis in people with heart disease could result in the development of larger plaque in these individuals?

Recent human and animal studies on angiogenesis and heart disease have not revealed plaque growth as a result of these treatments, says Isner, one of several scientists conducting this type of research.

The mice in this experiment were fed a "Western diet," which is designed to mimic the cholesterol content of the typical diet eaten in the United States. The amount of plaque the mice developed was measured in the aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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