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Protein that protects against coronary artery disease
November 26, 2017, 4:13 pm
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The buildup of plaque in the heart's arteries is an unfortunate part of aging. But elderly people with higher levels of the protein CXCL5 in their blood tend to have clearer arteries, say researchers at the University of North Carolina. The new finding could possibly point to a genetic basis for coronary artery disease (CAD), as well as potential opportunities to prevent it.

Researchers analyzed blood samples and heart scans from 143 people over age 65. The analysis revealed that people with clear arteries had markedly higher levels of CXCL5, as well as genetic variants near the CXCL5 gene, compared with people with more plaque in their arteries. "CXCL5 looks to be protective against CAD, and the more CXCL5 you have, the healthier your coronary arteries are," said one research team member. "

Patients with no obstructed blood flow in the coronary arteries had higher levels of CXCL5 compared to patients with moderate levels or lower levels of CXCL5, who had increased severity of coronary obstructions. CAD is the most common cause of heart attacks and the leading cause of death in any countries. Despite increased awareness of its risk factors and a variety of available treatment options, CAD has remained a persistent public health challenge.

Previous studies linked CXCL5 to inflammation, leading some researchers to assume the protein was harmful. But recent research in mice suggested the protein could help limit plaque buildup by changing the composition of fat and cholesterol deposits in the arteries. The new finding offers the first evidence that CXCL5 could play a protective role in people, at least in the context of CAD.

In addition to offering clues about how CAD develops, the study opens new possibilities for prevention and treatment. For example, it may be possible to develop a drug that mimics the effects of CXCL5 or that increases the body's natural CXCL5 production to help prevent CAD in people at high risk. The protein could even potentially be leveraged to develop a new, nonsurgical approach to help clear clogged arteries.

One limitation of the study is that because all participants were referred for a heart scan, researchers did not include healthy patients. Further research is needed to confirm the role of CXCL5 in CAD and explore drug development opportunities.
 

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