AsianScientist (Jul. 13, 2016) – Researchers in Singapore have discovered a gene that controls blood vessel formation. The findings, published in Nature Communications, present a possible new drug target for cancer and heart disease.
Blood vessels form a network throughout the body to deliver nutrients to tissues and organs. Blood vessels are formed in a process called angiogenesis. One type of cancer treatment starves tumors of the nutrients necessary for their survival by inhibiting blood vessel formation.
In the study, which was a collaborative effort between Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and the National Heart Center Singapore, the researchers uncovered the role that the gene Wars2 plays in the process of angiogenesis, and confirmed the importance of the gene for angiogenesis in rats and zebrafish.
“Using different genetic techniques, we inhibited Wars2 function in both rats and zebrafish, and the resulting animals showed impairment of blood vessel formation within the heart and in the rest of the body,” explained co-first author Mr. Wang Mao, a PhD student at Duke-NUS.
Conversely, upregulating the Wars2 gene led to enhanced blood vessel formation. Specifically, the researchers were able to determine that Wars2 plays an important role in supplying endothelial cells, the building blocks of blood vessels, in sufficient numbers.
“Angiogenesis is vital for supporting life and providing nutrients to all parts of the body,” said Duke-NUS Professor Stuart Cook, who led the study.
“Finding a way to control angiogenesis not only provides a target for the development of anti-cancer therapies, but may also prove useful in similarly starving abnormal blood vessel growth elsewhere in the body, like in diabetic eye disease.”
The article can be found at: Wang et al. (2016) Wars2 is a Determinant of Angiogenesis.
Source: Duke-NUS Medical School.
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