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New Angiogenesis Finding May Help Fight Cancer Growth

"Activating the NK-B receptor blocked angiogenesis, and blocking the receptor stimulated angiogenesis," Bresnick says. In theory, selectively stimulating angiogenesis could help treat heart attacks by restoring blood flow to the heart, increasing the blood supply to threatened heart muscle.

NK-B also plays a role in a mysterious but common syndrome called preeclampsia, in which soaring blood pressure and low blood oxygen levels harm or even kill pregnant women and their babies. Philip Lowry, at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, has found that NK-B levels spike in preeclampsia, and the new understanding of NK-B's role in angiogenesis suggests that faulty blood-vessel formation may be to blame.

Because NK-B prevents endothelial cells from organizing into blood vessels, Bresnick says, "Maybe excess levels of NK-B are responsible for or contribute to impaired vascular development/function and certain symptoms of preeclampsia." According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, the condition affects about 200,000 American women each year.

Many angiogenesis inhibitors are under study at this point, but finding a regulatory molecule that affects four separate mechanisms "makes for an interesting package," Bresnick says.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has applied for a patent on the discovery, which, says Bresnick, reflected the work of "outstanding collaborators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who facilitated this multidisciplinary study and co-authored this paper." Authors included Patricia Keely in the Department of Pharmacology; John Fallon and Tim Gomez in the Department of Anatomy; and Sam Gellman in the Department of Chemistry.

Bresnick and his collaborators are looking further into how the molecule works in human cells and in mouse models of angiogenesis.

Eventually, after years of basic research and drug development, the multitalented compound NK-B could wind up play
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