Study identifies role of specific gene in hardening of blood vessel walls

Researchers have identified a specific gene, called HDAC9, that appears to play a key role in the buildup of calcium in the blood vessel walls. In the future, targeting this gene might provide a way to prevent or treat cardiovascular events such heart attacks and strokes, they say.

The researchers studied more than 11,000 people and found that those with significant blood vessel calcification were more likely to have a specific variant of the gene HDAC9. In follow-up studies using mice, they found that HDAC9 caused abnormal changes in the cells of the blood vessel walls involving calcium buildup.  Inhibiting the HDAC9 gene in the mice preserved normal function in the vascular cells and prevented calcium buildup. The study describes a previously unknown role for HDAC9 in the development of blood vessel calcification and identifies the gene as a potential target for treating cardiovascular disease.

Their study, funded by the NHLBI, appeared in Nature Genetics.