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Could turning off the c-Rel protein prevent heart attacks?

Friday 29th March 2019
Scientists are carrying out research to see if turning off the c-Rel protein could protect arteries from plaque that leads to heart attacks and strokes.
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New research will look into whether turning off the c-Rel protein could prevent patients from having heart attacks and strokes.

The study to be conducted by the University of Sheffield will build on previous work into the protein, which discovered it is switched on when blood vessel walls are damaged.

Professor Paul Evans from the university's Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease will lead the research, which is being funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Scientists believe that c-Rel plays an important part in the development of atherosclerosis - a disease caused by fatty acids building up in arteries.

These fatty acids form plaque and it is when this hard substance is ruptured or damaged that heart attacks and strokes can occur.

The body’s circulatory system is complex and contains blood vessels that bend and branch in places, creating friction as the blood flows through them.

Where this friction happens, the chances of damage are increased and plaque is more likely to form.

What the scientists at Sheffield will do is see if removing c-Rel lowers the levels of plaque build-up, because if so, drugs to block the protein could be developed to cut heart attack and stroke risk.

Professor Evans said: “Heart attacks and strokes are two of the leading causes of death and disability in the UK. That’s why it is vital that we look at new ways of preventing the development of atherosclerosis, the disease which lies behind these life-threatening conditions.”

The BHF says there are more than 100,000 hospital admissions from heart attacks annually, making the need to find a way to prevent them particularly pressing.

Written by Matthew Horton

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