Biomedical engineers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have identified more than 100 human protein fragments that can slow or stop the growth of cells that make up new blood vessels.
The researchers believe that the findings would help in developing treatments to fight diseases that depend on the growth of new blood vessels, including cancer, macular degeneration and rheumatoid arthritis.
"Before, there were only 40 known antiangiogenesis peptides," says Aleksander Popel, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical engineering at Hopkins.
"Now, using a whole-genome, computer-based approach, we have identified more than 100 new ones, all of which can be further researched for their ability to fight the more than 30 known diseases affected by excessive blood vessel growth," he added.
For the study, the team looked at 40 known peptides that have been studied and characterized by other experts in the field to stop blood vessel growth in animal models of disease.
Assuming that the anti-vessel activity of these peptides can be attributed to similar features that are shared by a number of proteins, like the sequence of the peptide building blocks, the team categorized the them as where they are located and what they look like.
Having defined nine families, the researchers then used computer programs and compared the peptide families to all of the proteins encoded by the genome.
The researchers found more than 120 peptides contained in 82 different proteins, many of which were not previously known to have any activity on blood vessel development.
"Computational methods only identify potential candidates," said Popel.
"We next had to do the experiments on live cells to see if they had any real activity. Of the 82 proteins we identified, most were not previously known to have any antiangiogenic activity," he added.
The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.