Scientists have found a protein which can repair damaged blood vessels especially around the heart, an Ireland based study has found.
Cells produced in the human body could be used to heal damaged blood vessels according to new research at Queen's University Belfast.
Published in the journal, Cardiovascular Research, the research offers hope to people living with heart and circulatory diseases.
Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have found that increasing levels of a protein known as, NOX4, in a specific type of blood cell can increase the formation of new blood vessels.
This process could be used to treat many conditions associated with decreased blood delivery in key organs, including heart failure following a heart attack, diabetes, peripheral arterial disease and some types of stroke.
Professor David Grieve and Dr Karla O’Neill, who are involved in the research project, made the discovery using cells obtained from donated umbilical cords.
Dr O’Neill artificially increased the levels of the NOX4 protein in these cells and found that this markedly increased the number of blood vessels in tissue with poor blood flow and restored a normal delivery of oxygen-enriched blood.
Dr O'Neill said: “Blood vessels are a critical component of the circulatory system supplying blood containing oxygen and nutrients to vital organs such as the heart and brain. Growing and repairing these vessels is a major goal in treating heart and circulatory diseases.
“This study has provided evidence that increasing levels of this important protein in blood vessel cells can improve the efficiency of blood vessel formation by increasing important cellular processes.
“These findings could pave the way for new discoveries in regenerative medicine and allow scientists in the future to grow new functional blood vessels and repair those that are damaged in many forms of heart and circulatory diseases.”
According to the HSE approximately 10,000 people die annually from cardiovascular disease (CVD) including coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and other circulatory diseases. CVD is the most common cause of death in Ireland, accounting for 36% of all deaths.
The latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) data shows almost half of cardiovascular deaths were due to heart disease. More than 9,000 people lost their lives in 2016 to cardiovascular disease with almost half dying from heart disease, the latest figures show.
According to the Vital Statistics Annual Report 2016 from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which were released earlier this week, there were a total of 9,237 deaths attributed to diseases of the circulatory system or cardiovascular disease in 2016, of which 4,768 were men and 4,469 were women.
More than 73.4% of deaths due to cardiovascular disease occurred in older people or those aged 75 and over. Of the overall 9,237 deaths from cardiovascular disease, almost half or 48.2% were due to ischaemic heart disease, accounting for 55.4% of males and 40.4% of females.
The CSO data showed that North Tipperary recorded the highest age-standardised death rate for cardiovascular disease at 2.64 per 1,000 of population, while Galway City recorded the lowest at 1.40 per 1,000 of population.