Pigeons Provide Clues to Post-Op Artery Re-Closure

The birds have genetic predisposition to 'over-exuberant' tissue growth, researchers say

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THURSDAY, Aug. 10, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Pigeons with a genetic heart disease have provided U.S. scientists with a clue about why some patients' heart vessels become re-blocked after angioplasty.

A Wake Forest University School of Medicine team studied white carneau pigeons, which are genetically susceptible to heart attacks and heart vessel disease. In these pigeons, the smooth muscle cells of heart vessels are prone to uncontrolled growth.

"We identified a regulator of genes that controls the growth of artery smooth muscle cells. Learning to modulate the uncontrolled growth of these cells could potentially solve the problem of vessels re-closing after angioplasty," senior researcher William Wagner, professor of pathology, said in prepared statement.

The study was published in the August issue of the journal Experimental and Molecular Pathology.

Angioplasty utilizes a balloon-like device to crush material blocking an artery. But in about 25 percent to 30 percent of patients, the artery becomes re-blocked within three to six months, even if a stent is placed in the artery to keep it open.

This process (restenosis) has been described as "over exuberant" tissue healing. It involves the smooth muscle cells, and many scientists believe that it's a genetic problem.

"Understanding the factors that play a role in this increased cell growth may provide an opportunity to target its role in both the initial development of artery blockages and in the restenosis following angioplasty," Wagner said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about angioplasty.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, July 2006

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