The complexity of life works in many ways. Proteins, the primary things doing work in cells, can be modified after being synthesized. You might be able to compare it to aftermarket parts on cars, except a little less cool. Only a little, though.
After translation (the final step of protein synthesis), a protein can undergo many modifications. One modification often done is called glycosylation. This is when sugar molecules are added to the protein's surface, and this modification can be critical for the proper function of the protein.
An interesting protein that binds to these glycosylation modifications is called galectin-1. This protein is known to regulate the inflammatory response, as well as other immune responses. Interestingly, galectin-1 deficiency has been linked to more severe cardiac inflammation post-heart attack. This relationship makes galectin-1 a target for cardiovascular disease researchers, as it may be a source of prognostic or therapeutic value.
In a new study out of the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan, a team of scientists wanted to know if galectin-1 levels could provide prognostic information for chronic coronary artery disease patients. They examined it's levels in over 800 coronary artery disease patients alongside a standard prognostic molecule hs-CRP to see how they compared.
The study used 834 patients who had or were expected to have coronary artery disease. They used commercial tests for measuring both hs-CRP and galectin-1 levels in each patient. The patient's status was followed throughout the study for instances of adverse cardiological events (i.e., heart attacks, heart failure, etc.).
Patients with high galectin-1 levels were found to have a greater chance of adverse cardiological events compared to low galectin-1 level patients. Galectin-1 also outperformed hs-CRP in its ability to predict adverse events.
In this study, levels of the protein galectin-1 were found to correlate with an increased risk of adverse events amongst patients with coronary artery disease. Research suggests that galectin-1 is involved in regulating the inflammatory response, so its elevated levels may indicate inflammation in cardiovascular tissues, limiting blood flow, and cause dangerous events like heart attacks. Therefore, following its levels in patients could predict if they will experience these adverse events and allow the attending physician to prepare or prevent them.
The study concludes, "The predictive power of galectin-1 was superior to that of hs-CRP and non-inferior to that of the SYNTAX score. These findings provide novel evidence of galectin-1′s involvement in vascular inflammation and suggest that galectin-1 is an independent prognostic marker of CAD."