Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School have tested a non-surgical preventive treatment for peripheral vascular disease (PVD), according to a recent press release. PVD is a circulatory condition of the legs affecting millions of people in the U.S. that can be painful, and may in many cases require surgical treatment. The disease can also lead to severe muscle atrophy, which may in turn lead to limb amputation.
The new treatment, the study for which was recently published in the journal Cell Reports, has been tested in a mouse model of the disease, and researchers have associated it with increased blood circulation.
While previous studies had resorted to individual stimulatory factors to grow blood vessels in order to treat the disease, this new study, whose senior author was Vihang Narkar, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology at the UTHealth Medical School, identified and turned off a genetic switch that suppresses blood vessel development.
“We discovered an inhibitory switch that degrades blood vessels,” said Narkar, whose laboratory is located in the UTHealth Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Diseases at The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases. “We were able to genetically turn it off to prevent peripheral vascular disease in a preclinical study.”
Narkar added that, “Our next step will be to test this targeted treatment in models of other conditions that dramatically decrease circulation like diabetes and atherosclerosis.”
Narkar also said that the use of individual growth factors in order to stimulate blood vessel growth often results in the formation of leaky and non-functional blood vessels. “By turning off a genetic switch that acts as a roadblock for blood vessel growth, we were able to trigger and accelerate the natural process of blood vessel regeneration that involves a battery of growth factors,” he explained.
The switch is called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1 beta (PGC1beta) and could prove critical in discovering future treatments for other conditions, such as cardiac myopathies, cancer and retinopathy.
The study was co-authored by Vikas Yadav, Ph.D., who served as lead author on the study, Antonios Matsakas, Ph.D., and Sabina Lorca. Narkar is a member of The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.