"If you have some abnormality in this gene, if you don't have a normal gene structure, then you're not able to suppress the formation of tumor cells," he added. "Some people have argued that atherosclerosis lesions in the arteries are really a cancer-like lesion because the tissue is abnormal and things organize and form in ways that in some ways are a bit like cancer."
The normal version of the BRCA1 gene can put a cap on cell inflammation as it relates to breast cancer.
But the question has been whether these anti-inflammatory properties extend to other parts of the body.
If plaque build-up in arteries from atherosclerosis get bad enough, bits of plaque can break off and block the vessel. If blood supply to the heart is cut off, it can result in a heart attack.
In this new study, an overactivated BRCA1 gene in lab mice produced a chemical that spurred the formation of new blood vessel proliferation. More and newer blood vessels mean better blood supply to areas of the body without good circulation, the researchers pointed out.
There was also less inflammation in these mice, compared to those with a lower-functioning BRCA1 gene, and fewer atherosclerotic lesions.
While confirmation in humans remains a long way off, the findings suggest that people with mutations in the BRCA1 gene may be predisposed to heart disease, experts said.
There's more on atherosclerosis at the American Heart Asso
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