Current treatments for atherosclerosis slow, not reverse, plaque formation and hardening of the arteries. Experts attribute this result to inflammation in the blood vessels and, a study published in Nature Metabolism, sought out to understand why.
Researchers focused on transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ), a group of proteins known to decrease inflammation in the body. Using cells and mice as a model, the researchers discovered that TGFβ proteins triggered inflammation in endothelial cells that form the inner lining of artery walls, but not in other cell types.
Researchers also found that deleting TGFβ receptor gene in these cells could significantly reduce inflammation and plaque in the blood vessels. They also used “interfering” RNA (RNAi) to disrupt these receptors in mice, which successfully reduced inflammation and plaque in the blood vessel walls of mice.
The findings demonstrate that disrupting TGFβ proteins could halt inflammation and regression of plaque in the arteries. The study was funded by NHLBI.