Cleveland Clinic researchers have discovered a naturally occurring substance that may prevent the development of atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries.
The substance – a molecule known as Akt3 – stops the buildup of fatty deposits and plaque that can clog arteries and lead to strokes and heart attacks.
Researchers said the discovery, reported in the journal issue of Cell Metabolism, could lead to new plaque-fighting drugs and improved screening of patients at risk of developing atherosclerosis.
Lead researcher Dr. Eugene Podrez, of the Department of Molecular Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute, noted the plaque buildup in atherosclerosis results from cells in the walls of blood vessels absorbing, processing, and storing cholesterol and then accumulating in large amounts.
But his study found Akt3 regulates that process and prevents the cells from storing excessive amounts of cholesterol and collecting in the artery. Podrez and his colleagues are now looking into the particular mechanisms behind Akt3's role in regulating that process to help pave the way for new diagnostic and treatment options.