Researchers discover new blood vessel gene

19 July 2016        

A close up image of blood vessels

Researchers have discovered a new gene responsible for blood vessel formation, thanks to your donations.

The international collaboration, led by Professor Stuart Cook, discovered that a gene called ‘Wars2’ is responsible for blood vessel formation in the heart and throughout the rest of the body. The paper was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers found that when they turned off the gene in rats and zebrafish, there was reduced blood vessel growth both in the heart and throughout the rest of the body. This has confirmed the vital role of the Wars2 gene in blood vessel formation.

Wars2 in human disease

The Wars2 gene has previously been linked to obesity and cancer in large genetic studies, known as Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS), which look for versions of genes which are common among people with a disease. Researchers are able to see if a gene is associated with a particular condition.

What next?

The heart muscle relies on a constant supply of blood, to keep blood pumping around the body. Coronary heart disease is just one of the diseases where this supply of blood is implicated, and the heart muscle has a reduced blood supply. The discovery of the Wars2 gene will allow scientists to test new molecules to find ways of enhancing the effect of the gene to increase the blood supply to the heart.

Dr Rizwan Ahmed, at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, who worked on the study, said:

"The next step is to find medications to activate blood vessel production specifically in the heart muscle, using this gene. This research was an important step forward to help us target a gene known to be important in a range of conditions."

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