Newly discovered protein could hold key to preventing heart disease

A University of Central Florida research team found that the levels of MCPIP increased in mice as their blood vessels became inflamed and heart disease began to develop

A newly discovered gene known as MCPIP could provide scientists with the key to developing treatments for preventing inflammation that can cause heart disease, University of Central Florida researchers have discovered.

A research team led by Pappachan Kolattukudy, dean of the UCF Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences, found that the levels of MCPIP increased in mice as their blood vessels became inflamed and heart disease began to develop. The formation of MCPIP leads to the death of healthy cells, so treatments that block that formation could prove effective for heart disease.

The researchers are trying to discover the molecular changes that occur as heart disease develops. Better understanding those molecular changes would help with the development of drugs that can either prevent or treat the disease.

The team's findings are published in the May 12 issue of Circulation Research, the journal of the American Heart Association. The research is funded through a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The laboratory mice developed heart disease in a way similar to how it forms in humans, which suggests that the findings could hold promise for treating human heart disease. However, more research is needed to evaluate whether the same results found in mice could be expected in humans.

The UCF research team already has found that MCPIP is elevated in human hearts suffering ischemic heart failure.

MCPIP is formed when an often-studied protein called MCP-1 binds to receptors. The MCP-1 protein helps to attract white blood cells known as monocytes to infected and injured areas of the body. The monocytes then attack bacteria and help the body fight diseases.

But that process also produces several known and unknown proteins. The researchers focused on MCPIP, one of the previously unknown proteins, because they discovered links between it and the deaths of healthy cells adjacent to the infected ones.

This finding could lead to advances in treating other inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and some forms of cancer.

Cardiovascular research is one of four main specialties at the Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences, which laid the foundation for the recently approved medical college at UCF. Kolattukudy began his research at Ohio State University before he moved to UCF in 2003.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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