Researchers identify new target for treating disease of the heart’s smallest blood vessels

Researchers have identified a new target for a disease of the heart’s smallest blood vessels, one that involves “critical deficit” in the body’s ability to appropriately dilate blood vessels. The finding that could open the door to new treatments for heart disease, the researchers suggest.

Researchers have suspected for some time that microvascular dysfunction, a type of coronary artery disease involving the small blood vessels feeding the heart, may underlie many of the problems associated with heart failure. But details of how this might occur has remained a mystery.

In a study using obese rats predisposed to heart failure, the researchers found that the chemical adenosine, which normally helps blood vessels dilate or expand, does not work well because levels of its natural inhibitor, adenosine kinase, are increased. Adding a drug that blocks adenosine kinase boosted adenosine production and blood vessel dilation, they say. The researchers demonstrated that a similar process can also occur in small blood vessels isolated from humans with heart failure. Inhibition of adenosine kinase production could be a promising approach for treating heart failure involving microvascular dysfunction, they suggest, noting that more studies are needed.

The study, funded by NHLBI, NIA, and the American Heart Association, appeared in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.