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Invade and conquer: Nicotine's role in promoting heart and blood vessel disease
Date:2/23/2012

San Diego, Calif. Cigarette smoke has long been considered the main risk factor for heart disease. But new research from Brown University in Providence, R.I., shows that nicotine itself, a component of cigarette smoke, can contribute to the disease process by changing cell structure in a way that promotes migration and invasion of the smooth muscle cells that line blood vessels. In particular, invading cells can remodel structures called podosomes, and this leads to further degradation of vessel integrity.

Ultimately, this cellular migration and invasion process gives rise to the formation of vessel-clogging fatty deposits known as plaque the hallmark of heart and blood vessel disease. The results on the nicotine-podosome link will be presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society (BPS), held Feb. 25-29 in San Diego, Calif.

If confirmed in further studies, the finding that nicotine itself promotes vessel damage by changing podosomes appears to question the health benefits of helping people quit smoking through smokeless nicotine delivery agents such as gum or patches.

"The finding that nicotine is as effective as cigarette smoke in enhancing cellular structural changes, and breakdown of scaffold proteins by vascular smooth muscle cells, suggests that replacing cigarette smoking by nicotine treatment may have limited beneficial effects on atherosclerosis," notes lead researcher Chi-Ming Hai, professor of medical science in the department of molecular pharmacology, physiology, and biotechnology at Brown University.

Hai's research illuminates the multistep process of plaque formation, and suggests that a new powerful player, nicotine, may be involved. The plaque formation process begins as a response to cellular injury, and progresses to destructive and chronic inflammation of the vessel walls that attracts mobs of white blood cells, further inflaming the vessels. This damage-causing inflammation can be trigg
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Contact: Ellen R. Weiss
eweiss@biophysics.org
240-290-5606
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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