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Researchers identify a gene that may play a key role in atherosclerosis and other diseases
Date:3/15/2010

To understand the role of inflammation in cardiovascular and other diseases, it is essential to identify and characterize genes that induce an inflammatory response in the body -- and the genes that regulate them.

A study published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that a gene called Hu antigen R (HuR) plays a critical role in inducing and mediating an inflammatory response in cells experiencing mechanical and chemical stresses. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The findings may open up new possibilities for developing treatments of metabolic diseases associated with inflammation, such as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis typically occurs in branched or curved regions of arteries where plaques form because of cholesterol build-up. Inflammation can alter the structure of plaques so that they become more likely to rupture, causing a blood vessel blockage and leading to heart attack or stroke.

"This is the first systematic study showing that HuR not only responds to external stimuli as a stress-sensitive gene, but it also regulates other stress-sensitive genes," said senior author Gang Bao, the Robert A. Milton Chair in Biomedical Engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

The study results show that HuR promotes the expression of genes that support atherosclerosis and inhibits the expression of genes that combat atherosclerosis.

"We found that suppressing expression of HuR inhibited the inflammatory response of cells, which shows that designing drugs that block HuR function may reduce the risk of plaques rupturing," explained Bao.

Bao guided Won Jong Rhee, a former postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory, to conduct a series of experiments investigating the biology, behavior and pathways of HuR.

The researchers first studied how the HuR gen
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Contact: Abby Vogel
avogel@gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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