Stem cells, or a type of stem cell, could be the real cause of blocked arteries, which lead to cardiovascular diseases, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.
Zee News reports that principal investigator Song Li, professor of bioengineering, and also a researcher at the Berkeley Stem Cell Centre, stated:
“For the first time, we are showing evidence that vascular diseases are actually a kind of stem cell disease. This work should revolutionize therapies for vascular diseases because we now know that stem cells rather than smooth muscle cells are the correct therapeutic target.”
Li reports that they found the new stem cell, called a multipotent vascular stem cell, while using genetic tracing to find out what really causes clogged arteries. For decades, researchers thought that the culprit was actually smooth muscle cells within blood vessel walls combining with cholesterol and fat.
Drug Discovery & Development reports that Dr. Deepak Srivastava, director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease at UC San Francisco provided some of the mouse vascular tissues used in the study. He stated of the results that:
“This is groundbreaking and provocative work, as it challenges existing dogma. Targeting the vascular stem cells rather than the existing smooth muscle in the vessel wall might be much more effective in treating vascular disease.”
The study analyzed cells from cross sections of blood vessels. In doing so, researchers discovered more than 90 percent of the cells in blood vessels were mature smooth muscle cells. They cultured the cells, noting their expansion during a one month period. They noted that, despite a threefold increase in the size of the spreading area, none of the new cells glowed green, meaning they did not come from the mature smooth muscle cells they originally isolated, according to Drug Discovery & Development.
Zhenyu Tang, co-lead author of the study and a Ph.D. student in the UC Berkeley-UCSF Graduate Program in Bioengineering stated:
“Not only was there a lack of green markers in the cell cultures, but we noticed that another type of cell isolated from the blood vessels exhibited progenitor traits for different types of tissue, not just smooth muscle cells.”
Tang further stated, according to Zee News, that:
“We did further tests and detected proteins and transcriptional factors that are only found in stem cells. No one knew that these cells existed in the blood vessel walls because no one looked for them before.”
With the newly discovered stem cell found to be a possible culprit for cardiovascular disease, researchers hope to find a new way to treat the deadly disease.