A new discovery by scientists has found that certain effects of genes could help in the treatment of cancer and heart disease, by being able to modify blood supply. The gene is related to the growth of blood vessels and could see the development of new treatments to help patients combat the diseases in different ways. Researchers at the National Heart and Lung Institute, who carried out the study, believe that the research could also prove valuable to other areas of medicine, such as treating diabetic eye disease; another condition which can be affected by blood flow.
Blood flow and angiogenesis
The creation of blood vessels, known as angiogenesis, is a process which is vital to ensure that blood and nutrients can be transferred all over the body. The researchers claim that being able to control angiogenesis can help to treat a number of health conditions, and boost heart function overall for those who suffer with blood flow problems. It is hoped that medications can be developed to support this research.
What the findings mean for medicine
By finding a way to ‘turn off’ the gene, there is the potential to reduce the growth of blood vessels. This would mean that it would be possible to starve cancerous tumours of oxygen and nutrients, which would prevent them from growing. Contrastingly, in the treatment of heart disease, the level of growth of blood vessels could be increased. This would not only boost the heart function of those with heart disease, but other conditions too.
The gene has been labelled ‘Wars2’, and has been studied through a number of trials involving zebrafish and rats. The trials have been funded by a number of backers from across the world to ensure the most effective research. In the study, the subjects were found to have reduced blood vessel growth once the gene was turned off. Similar studies have been conducted in the past involving groups of people who have certain diseases in common in order to look for a gene that links them all.
By studying the gene, the researchers have opened a new path for future studies which could lead to treatments for a range of conditions affected by blood vessel growth.
Looking after your heart health
Whilst treatments and medication following this ground-breaking research could be some time in the making, there are things you can do now to ensure a healthier heart. Exercising and maintaining a healthy diet are two of the most basic ways to reduce your risk of heart disease, whilst quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake will also benefit you. If you’re concerned about your heart health, you should speak to your doctor who will be able to perform the necessary checks.
You can find some extensive heart health resources on the NHS website, offering everything from diet advice to real life stories from people’s experiences with their heart, as well as what to do if you suspect that something is wrong. Developments in heart disease and cancer treatments may be ongoing, but heart health is something that begins with you and self-care.