MAY 19, 2016 12:45 PM PDT

Gene Prevents Heart Attack and Other Age-Related Conditions

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
As an embryonic stem cell pluripotency factor, Oct4 was previously thought to only be active in embryos, not in adults. However, novel findings from the University of Virginia School of Medicine provided, for the first time, solid proof that Oct4 is not permanently irrelevant after the embryo stage.
 
Gary K. Owens, PhD, and his research time discovered that fully understanding the role of Oct4 in adulthood actually has potential for preventing heart attacks and treating survivors with gene manipulation.
 
An atherosclerotic lesion
 
"Finding a way to augment the expression of this gene in adult cells may have profound implications for promoting health and possibly reversing some of the detrimental effects with aging," Owens said.
 
They found that Oct4 expression leads to the production of protective fibrous “caps” inside of atherosclerotic plaques, controlling the smooth muscle cells inside the plaques and preventing them from rupturing. This stabilizing role could be critical for the survival of people with plaque formation, because plaque ruptures cause heart attacks and stroke.
 
Additionally, the researchers experimented with blocking the expression of Oct4, expected the plaques to reduce in volume due to the lack of smooth muscle cell “caps” inside of the plaques. However, the plaques grew larger, less stable, and more dangerous, clearly demonstrating how important Oct4 expression is for preventing dangerous cardiovascular events.
 
From their results, the researchers suspect that an increased risk of plaque rupture causing heart disease and stroke later in life is due to a reduction in the body’s ability to reactivate Oct4.
 
"Finding a way to reactivate this pathway may have profound implications for health and aging," Owens said. "We think this is just the tip of the iceberg for controlling plasticity of somatic cells, and this could impact many human diseases and the field of regenerative medicine.”
 
Indeed, targeting the Oct4 pathway is a promising option for future drug development, especially for people at a high risk for heart attack or stroke.
 
The study was recently published in the journal Nature Medicine.
 
Source: University of Virginia Health System
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 29, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Injectable Heart Health Tracker Now Picks Up COVID Red Flags
DEC 29, 2020
Injectable Heart Health Tracker Now Picks Up COVID Red Flags
The statistics are a real eye-opener: in the United States, one person dies every 36 seconds from cardiovascular disease ...
MAY 19, 2021
Immunology
Intestinal Macrophages Promote Chronic Inflammation in Obesity
MAY 19, 2021
Intestinal Macrophages Promote Chronic Inflammation in Obesity
A research group from Switzerland hypothesized that immune cells in the gut (gastrointestinal tract) must trigger chroni ...
JUN 15, 2021
Cardiology
A Common Thread Among 20% of Sudden Cardiac Deaths
JUN 15, 2021
A Common Thread Among 20% of Sudden Cardiac Deaths
It's estimated that 450,000 Americans die from sudden heart conditions, and in about one in ten cases, the cause is unex ...
JUN 18, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
FDA Approves First New Drug Since 2014 for Weight-loss
JUN 18, 2021
FDA Approves First New Drug Since 2014 for Weight-loss
A new medication called ‘Wegovy’ produced by Novo Nordisk has been approved by the Food and Drug Administrat ...
JUN 30, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A Deep Learning Tool for Faster, Better Heart Disease Diagnoses
JUN 30, 2021
A Deep Learning Tool for Faster, Better Heart Disease Diagnoses
A new deep learning tool could help slash the time it takes to interpret cardiology scans to diagnose obstructive corona ...
JUL 22, 2021
Cardiology
Coffee Doesn't Seem to Cause Heart Arrhythmia
JUL 22, 2021
Coffee Doesn't Seem to Cause Heart Arrhythmia
There's been some debate about whether or not coffee is good or bad for the heart. Now, a very large study of human heal ...
Loading Comments...