NHLBI study finds possible new indicator of heart disease risk

February 12, 2003

Levels of a type of adult stem cell in the bloodstream may indicate a person's risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to a study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.

The study looked at the blood level of endothelial progenitor cells, which are made in the bone marrow and may help the body repair damage to blood vessels. Scientists from NHLBI and Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA, found that cardiovascular disease risk was higher in persons with fewer endothelial progenitor cells. The cells of those at higher risk also aged faster than those at lower risk, as determined by the Framingham Heart Study risk factor score, a standard measurement of cardiovascular risk. Additionally, the study found that blood vessels were much less likely to dilate and relax appropriately in persons with low levels of the cells.

Results of the study, which involved 45 healthy men aged 21 and older, some of whom had standard cardiovascular risk factors, appear in the February 13, 2003, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The two main forms of cardiovascular disease are heart disease and stroke. Standard heart disease risk factors are age, family history of early heart disease, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, and diabetes.

"Past research on cardiovascular disease has often focused on what causes the damage to the blood vessels," said Dr. Toren Finkel, chief of NHLBI's Cardiology Branch and coauthor of the study. "We looked at the other part of the equation: How does the body repair damaged blood vessels? What does that tell us about the cause of the disease?

"We believe that these endothelial progenitor cells patch damaged sites in blood vessel walls," he continued. "When the cells start to run out, cardiovascular disease worsens. We don't yet know what causes their depletion but it may be related to the fact that the risk of cardiovascular disease increases as people age. For instance, the cells may be used up repairing damage done by other risk factors or those risk factors could directly affect the survival of the endothelial cells themselves.

"Much more research needs to be done to better understand this finding," Finkel added. "But it's possible that, some day, doctors may be able to test a person's risk of cardiovascular disease by taking a blood sample and measuring these cells. If the level is too low, an injection of endothelial cells might boost the body's ability to repair itself and prevent more blood vessel damage."
-end-
Finkel is available for comment on the study. To arrange an interview, call the NHLBI Communications Office at (301) 496-4236.

NHLBI press releases, fact sheets, and other materials are available online at www.nhlbi.nih.gov

NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.