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New discoveries from Harvard and Baylor get to the heart of cardiovascular disease
Date:6/18/2008

Even if you eat right and exercise regularly, chances are high that you'll still die of a heart attack or stroke. But thanks to new findings by researchers from Harvard and Baylor, the odds may finally shift in your favor. Two unrelated studies recently published online in The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org) describe findings on atherosclerosis that have the potential to save millions of lives.

Both studies involved experiments in mice, but cover biological processes present in humans. In the first, scientists from Harvard explain how the absence of a single protein, called "ROCK1," profoundly reduces inflammation in the walls of blood vessels provoked by fatty deposits (atherosclerosis). In this study, scientists found that ROCK1 is necessary for immune cells, called macrophages, to "clean up" vascular walls when they come into contact with fatty deposits. Inflammation is a normal byproduct of the clean-up process and, when it goes unchecked, leads to clogging and hardening of the arteries. When ROCK1 is absent, macrophages no longer contributed to these fatty deposits and mice showed significantly less inflammation and atherosclerosis. This discovery could lead to new treatments, such as ROCK1 inhibitors, that could dampen the inflammatory response to fatty deposits and slow the progression of atherosclerosis, and in so doing, reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes.

According to James Liao, MD, Director of Vascular Medicine Research, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and one of the report's co-authors, "the ultimate goal of the research is to prevent or slow atherosclerosis, and these findings provide a new target to do this."

While the first study works to prevent inflammation by keeping cells of the immune system at bay, the second report focuses on the body's ability (or inability) to "cool down" inflammation after this clean-up machinery ki
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Contact: Cody Mooneyhan
cmooneyhan@faseb.org
301-634-7104
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Source:Eurekalert  

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New discoveries from Harvard and Baylor get to the heart of cardiovascular disease
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