Researchers say identifying the framework for how these and other very positive health benefits occur should help them find ways to augment the benefits and identify new treatments for cardiovascular disease, which may result when the support structure falls apart.
"It's a whole new ball game," Dr. John D. Catravas, director of the Vascular Biology Center, said of the findings which contradict previous understanding of how the compound, cyclic GMP, which also helps keep blood vessels open and enables penile erection, is ultimately produced.
Dr. Catravas and Dr. Richard C. Venema, biochemist and molecular biologist, recently received funding from the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health to study how the scaffold they have found is assembled.
They found the scaffold while studying the endothelial and smooth muscle cells the two major cell types within blood vessels in the vessels of healthy animals. They found, not surprisingly, nitric oxide synthase which makes nitric oxide, the short-lived gas that, in turn, activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase or sGC, an enzyme key to the production of cyclic GMP; in fact, heart drugs such as nitroglycerin work by stimulating sGC to produce cyclic GMP.
They also found the heat shock protein 90, or hsp 90, one of the ubiquitous heat shock proteins which makes nitric oxide synthase more efficient in producing nitric oxide.
What they didn't expect was to find that the three substances combined to form an efficient biochemical structure that makes sGC readily available to support the positive benefits of cyclic GMP.
Prior to the findings by MCG researchers, it was believed that only hsp 90 and nitric oxide synthase were packaged together,
Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia