Arteriosclerosis: True Cause?
Historically, the blame for hardening of the arteries has gone to the smooth muscle cells within blood vessel walls. These cells were believed to combine with cholesterol and fat to form plaque. Now researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have questioned that theory with their discovery of a previously unknown multipotent vascular stem cell that appears to be the true perpetrator of the clogged arteries that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Their study was published in the journal Nature Communications. Lead researcher Song Li, a bioengineering professor, said, “For the first time, we are showing evidence that vascular diseases are actually a kind of stem cell disease. This work should revolutionize therapies for vascular diseases."
A press release from the university quotes Dr. Deepak Srivastava, who directs cardiovascular and stem cell research at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, as saying, “This is groundbreaking and provocative work, as it challenges existing dogma.” Dr. Srivastava who provided some of the mouse vascular tissues used by the researchers, also said, “Targeting the vascular stem cells rather than the existing smooth muscle in the vessel wall might be much more effective in treating vascular disease.”
Echoing this opinion, Dr. Shu Chien, director of the Institute of Engineering in Medicine at UC San Diego, and Li’s former adviser, said, “If your target is wrong, then your treatment can’t be very effective. These new findings give us the right target and should speed up the discovery of novel treatments for vascular diseases.”