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Researchers at the University of Sheffield are to study if ‘turning off’ a protein could help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
We've provided funding to a team of scientists, led by Professor Paul Evans from the university's Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease to look at the role a protein called c-Rel plays in the development of atherosclerosis.
Decoding a complex disease
Atherosclerosis is a disease where fatty materials build up over time inside the walls of the arteries, forming a hard substance called a plaque. When the build-up becomes too much, the plaque can become damaged or ruptured, and this is what leads to heart attacks and strokes.
As blood flows through our circulatory system, it creates friction on the wall of the blood vessels. In areas where blood vessels branch or bend, the blood doesn't just flow in one direction, and more friction is created. This can lead to damage to the blood vessel walls and makes plaques more likely to form.
Continuing with previous research
Previous research found that a protein, known as c-Rel, is ‘switched on’ by damage to the blood vessel walls, and accelerates the build-up of fatty plaques even further.
In this study, Professor Evans will investigate how removing c-Rel affects the progression of the disease in mice. If mice that have had c-Rel 'switched off' or removed are shown to have lower levels of build-up of these dangerous plaques, it could pave the way for developing drugs to block this protein and reduce a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke.