Researchers identify drugs with potential to stop plaque buildup in arteries

Researchers identify drugs with potential to stop plaque buildup in arteries

Researchers identify drugs with potential to stop plaque buildup in arteries
Chemistry professor Chris Cairo co-led a study that identified a new mechanism responsible for the harmful buildup of plaque on artery walls that can restrict blood flow. The discovery also pinpointed new targets for drugs that could improve treatment for people with cardiovascular disease. Credit: Richard Siemens

Glycomics researchers at the University of Alberta and CHU Sainte-Justine have reported a discovery that could lead to new treatments for cardiovascular disease.

The researchers identified a new mechanism responsible for the buildup of plaque on artery walls, a process known as atherosclerosis. This plaque, made up of fats, cholesterol and other substances, can restrict blood flow and is a major factor in cardiovascular disease.

“We identified a new mechanism underlying atherosclerosis,” explained Chris Cairo, professor in the Department of Chemistry and co-lead author of the new study. “We also demonstrated that this can be addressed pharmacologically. Using inhibitors developed in our lab, we found that this could be a new strategy for therapeutics in cardiovascular disease.”

The discovery identified drug targets with the potential to stop the buildup of plaques—a breakthrough that could make a world of difference for many Canadians. The second leading cause of death in Canada, cardiovascular disease affects 2.4 million people across the nation, according to the federal government. New and more effective treatments are still needed, Cairo explained.

“The clinical implications of this study include the discovery of a novel pathway involved in the development of atherosclerosis—one of the most important causes of cardiovascular mortality—and the identification of novel, potentially druggable targets that can prevent atherosclerosis independent of cholesterol levels,” said co-lead author Alexey Pshezhetsky from CHU Sainte-Justine.

The researchers examined the role of glycosylation of circulating lipid particles in the blood in atherosclerosis. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are sometimes called bad cholesterol, are a complex of lipids, cholesterol and glycoproteins. The researchers looked at LDL particles before and after removal of a specific glycan residue, known as sialic acid. LDL that h

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