A TWIST in the story of arterial disease
Pioneering BHF-funded research at the University of Sheffield has shed new light on the processes that cause the build-up of fatty deposits in arteries, a process that causes hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis) and can lead to angina, heart attack and stroke.
The study led by Professor Paul Evans focussed on a gene called TWIST1 that controls the building of new arteries and veins in embryos. The team found that although TWIST1 is absent from most adult blood vessels, it is 'switched on' at branches and bends of arteries (e.g. where smaller arteries branch off from larger arteries) by complex blood flow conditions that are found at these regions. This 'inappropriate' switching on of the TWIST1 gene causes the vessel wall to be leakier to cholesterol, leading to the build-up of disease-causing fatty deposits.
The work shows that genes involved in embryonic development can also trigger arterial hardening in adults, and suggests that therapies to block TWIST1 could help prevent or treat arterial disease.
Published Circulation Research - online 27th May 2016, in print 21st July 2016.
Funded by the British Heart Foundation (RG/13/1/30042).