Washington, June 19 : Two separate studies conducted by researchers from Harvard and Baylor have furnished significant findings on atherosclerosis - a disease affecting arterial blood vessels - which have the potential to reduce incidence of heart attacks and strokes.
Published online in The FASEB Journal, both involved experiments on mice, but covered biological processes present in humans.
The first study from Harvard showed that the absence of a single protein called 'ROCK1' led to a reduction in inflammation and atherosclerosis.
The researchers said that their finding might lead to new treatments, like ROCK1 inhibitors, that could slow the progression of atherosclerosis, and in turn reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes.
"The ultimate goal of the research is to prevent or slow atherosclerosis, and these findings provide a new target to do this," said Dr. James Liao, Director of Vascular Medicine Research, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and one of the report's co-authors.
The second report talks about lipid mediators that the body uses to resolve inflammation once it has started.
It suggests that targeting such lipid mediators and the mechanisms used to make them, scientists should be able to develop drugs that significantly reduce the inflammation that underlies much of atherosclerosis.
"The specific chemical mediators that naturally cool down the inflammatory process identified in this study represent a new drug target for anti-atherosclerosis therapy. It's also noteworthy that aspirin stimulates the body to produce one class of these chemicals," said Dr. Aksam Merched, Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine and the first author of the study.
Dr. Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said: "Even if we delay the process by exercise and rabbit food, sooner or later our blood vessels rot. Now that we appreciate that atherosclerosis is inflammation gone awry, we can attack its root causes. Studies like these take us closer to delaying the inevitable, and help us understand the factors that provoke heart attacks and strokes."
The journal has also published a study discussing a new approach toward repairing the damage using artificial grafts that may heal into the natural arteries and blood vessels as time goes on.