News | Cardiac Diagnostics | December 07, 2017

New Study Suggests Protein Could Protect Against Coronary Artery Disease

Research showed much lower levels of the protein CXCL5 in older people with clogged arteries, offering hope for future diagnostic and therapeutic efforts

New Study Suggests Protein Could Protect Against Coronary Artery Disease

Patients with no obstructed blood flow in the coronary arteries had higher levels of CXCL5 (blue) compared to patients with moderate levels (green) or lower levels (yellow) of CXCL5, who had increased severity of coronary obstructions (indicated by the arrows). Credit: Schisler lab

December 7, 2017 — The buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries is an unfortunate part of aging. But by studying the genetic makeup of people who maintain clear arteries into old age, researchers led by the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) Jonathan Schisler, Ph.D., have identified a possible genetic basis for coronary artery disease (CAD), as well as potential new opportunities to prevent it.

According to research published in the American Journal of Pathology, the protein CXCL5 is found in much higher levels in older adults with much clearer heart arteries.

“CXCL5 looks to be protective against CAD, and the more CXCL5 you have, the healthier your coronary arteries are,” said Schisler, assistant professor of pharmacology and member of the UNC McAllister Heart Institute. “Our findings suggest that there may be a genetic basis to CAD and that CXCL5 may be of therapeutic interest to combat the disease.”

Schisler and his colleagues analyzed blood samples and heart scans from 143 people over age 65 who were referred to the UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill for cardiovascular screening. 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.

CAD is the most common cause of heart attacks and the leading cause of death in the United States. 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. Schisler’s 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.

“Another potential application of our findings is in the use of CXCL5 as a biomarker for CAD,” Schisler said. “Although our goal was not to discover biomarkers that may have diagnostic or prognostic applications, it’s possible and worth exploring.”

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.

Schisler said that for him, although the research is in its early stages, homing in on CXCL5 provides him and his team hope in a battle worth fighting.

“I lost both of my grandfathers to cardiovascular disease — one so early I do not even have any memories of him,” he said. “This has been a driving force for me to not only understand heart disease, but also find treatments that allow people to live healthy, longer lives.”

The study was funded by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the National Institutes of Health.

For more information: www.ajp.amjpathol.org

Related Content

Male Triathletes May Be Putting Their Heart Health at Risk
News | Cardiac Diagnostics | January 09, 2018
Competitive male triathletes face a higher risk of a potentially harmful heart condition called myocardial fibrosis,...
ERT Acquires iCardiac Technologies
News | Cardiac Diagnostics | December 19, 2017
ERT recently announced it has acquired iCardiac Technologies, a provider of centralized cardiac safety and respiratory...
E-cigarettes Most Likely to be Used by Alcohol Drinkers and Former Cigarette Smokers, at American Heart Association (AHA), #AHA2017.
News | Cardiac Diagnostics | December 06, 2017
December 6, 2017 — Electronic cigarettes are more frequently used by people who recently quit smoking and alcohol dri
Lack of sleep may cause heart disease in older women. American heart Association, #AHA2017
News | Cardiac Diagnostics | December 06, 2017
December 6, 2017 — Older women who do not get enough sleep were more likely to have poor cardiovascular health, accor
New Tool Predicts Risk of Heart Attack in Older Surgery Patients
News | Cardiac Diagnostics | December 05, 2017
A tool designed to more accurately predict the risk of heart attack in older patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery...
EPIC Norfolk prospective population study showed any physical activity is better than none in older adults in preventing cardiovascular disease.

The EPIC Norfolk prospective population study showed any physical activity is better than none in older adults in preventing cardiovascular disease.

News | Cardiac Diagnostics | November 24, 2017
November 24, 2017 — Any physical activity in the elderly is better than none at all for reducing cardiovascular risk,
Analytics 4 Life Presents Clinical Data on Machine-Learned Cardiac Imaging Technology at TCT 2017
News | Cardiac Diagnostics | November 01, 2017
Analytics 4 Life announced it will be presenting new clinical data on the company's ongoing Coronary Artery Disease...
American Heart Association, Verily and AstraZeneca Launch One Brave Idea Science Innovation Center
News | Cardiac Diagnostics | October 20, 2017
The American Heart Association, Verily and AstraZeneca announced the opening of the One Brave Idea Science Innovation...
The Role of Telomere Length in Cardiovascular Risk Assessment
Feature | Cardiac Diagnostics | October 19, 2017 | Nanette H. Bishopric, M.D., FACC, FAHA
A new area of DNA testing involving telomere length may enhance a patient’s cardiovascular disease risk stratificatio
Overlay Init