Genes for protecting against disease
The build-up of fatty deposits in arteries feeding the heart and brain can cause angina, heart attack or stroke. This mostly occurs at branches and bends in arteries where blood flow is low and disrupted. Professor Paul Evans, when working at Imperial College London, wanted to understand how blood flow influences the disease process.
“We studied a number of genes that protect arteries from disease – many protective genes are switched off in cells at branches and bends which could explain why these regions are susceptible to disease” explains Professor Evans. One particular gene normally switched off in regions of low blood flow is called Nrf2.
Professor Evans and his team found that a naturally occurring chemical, called sulphoraphane, found in some vegetables such as broccoli can switch on Nrf2.
Evans’ team gave sulphoraphane to mice and found it protected their arteries from disease. Professor Evans adds: “Ultimately we would like to use this knowledge to develop new drugs that could protect arteries against disease.” But the research also shows the benefits of a good diet.
Professor Evans has now moved to the University of Sheffield where he is leading his own group. But he continues to collaborate with his former colleagues at Imperial College.
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