Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a genetic switch that can increase the number of blood vessels in the skeletal muscle of non-exercising mice.
Skeletal muscle is composed of two types of fibers: slow twitch fibers that inherently have a dense supply of blood vessels and fast twitch fibers that have fewer blood vessels.
The researchers used a gene switch known as estrogen-related receptor gamma (ERR gamma) that when activated in fast twitch fibers of mice by genetic engineering, converts these fibers into slow twitch fibers.
"This consequently resulted in a striking increase in muscle blood supply as measured by imaging and angiography. These genetically-transformed muscles also acquire other characteristics of slow muscles, such as improved metabolic capacity and fatigue resistance that can be additionally beneficial in resolving muscle vascular disease," said Vihang Narkar, lead investigator of the study.
"The identification of the estrogen-related receptor gamma vascular switch will open potential therapeutic avenues for treating CLI and other cardiovascular diseases linked to defective blood supply," said Narkar.
Colin Barker, at the UTHealth Medical School, said new research is needed to help people with peripheral artery disease, particularly those with the most severe form-critical limb ischemia.
The findings have been detailed in the journal Cell Metabolism.