Protein not only aids nerve development, but promotes blood vessel growth, too

November 01, 2004

SALT LAKE CITY -- A protein important to nerve development serves the dual purpose of stimulating the growth of blood vessels, researchers from the University of Utah School of Medicine and Stanford University have discovered. The discovery opens the possibility that blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) one day may be induced, or stymied, for therapeutic use against heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses, according to Dean Y. Li, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of internal medicine in the U of U School of Medicine's Division of Cardiology. Li is corresponding author of an article that details the findings to be published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online.

The study focuses on Netrin-1, part of the netrin family of proteins, one of four major classes of neural guidance "cues" that induce axons, or nerve fibers, to extend in specific directions during development. Recent evidence has indicated that the other three classes of neural guidance cues--ephrins, semaphorins, and slits--function as angiogenic regulators. But until now, netrins had not been shown to have a part in blood vessel formation.

Nerves and blood vessels often follow parallel paths of development, which suggests that common cues may induce both processes. In tissue cultures and animal models, Li and the other researchers showed that Netrin-1 "stimulates proliferation, induces migration, and promotes adhesion of endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells."

"It makes sense that factors that guide nerves also guide blood vessel growth," Li said. "This work indicates that there is an expanding number of signals that regulate vessel growth or angiogenesis. Identifying these signals and their interaction are critical steps required for manipulating, blocking, or stimulating blood vessel growth for therapeutic purposes."

The researchers' data demonstrate that Netrin-1 is a neural guidance cue with the "unique ability to attract both blood vessels as well as axons, and is capable of functioning as a vascular growth factor," they write.

Understanding what factors induce blood vessel growth could have important implications for treating disease in the future.

Tumors, for example, depend on blood vessels to supply critical nutrients to grow. If blood vessel growth in tumors could be stopped, it may help fight cancer.

Conversely, inducing blood vessel growth may help people with ischemic heart disease whose hearts don't get enough blood.

Although the discovery about Netrin-1 shows promise, therapeutic starting or stopping of blood vessel growth to cure human disease is at least 15 years away--if it proves viable, Li said.

Li began studying whether Netrin-1 promotes blood vessel growth after discovering a vascular receptor for another neural guidance factor. Next, he wants to look at the roles of other netrins in blood vessel development and identify the receptors required for the vascular effects of Netrins.

Along with Li, other researchers on the project included Kye Won Park, Dana Crouse, Satyajit Karnik, and Lise K. Sorensen, the U of U School of Medicine's Program in Human Molecular Biology and Genetics; Kelly J. Murphy, U of U Department of Cardiology; Mark Lee and Calvin J. Kuo, Stanford University School of Medicine.
-end-


University of Utah Health Sciences

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.