Scientists have identified a protein which seems to play a significant role in monitoring new blood vessel growth, thereby preventing a number of problems.
Upon injury, the body grows new blood vessels to repair damaged tissue. However, too much growth may sometimes cause problemslike when new blood vessels in the eyes leak and are not treated, they may cause diabetic retinopathy and blindness.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School have now found in a study that the CIB1 protein appears to control new blood vessel growth.
The new finding attains significance as it offers a target for drug treatments to help the body repair itself after injury and control unwanted blood vessel growth.
"In the future, this knowledge may help our ability to control blood vessel growth in disease situations such as wound healing, retinal diseases and diabetes," said Dr. Leslie Parise, senior study author and professor and chair of biochemistry and biophysics in the UNC School of Medicine.
During the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, Parise's team CIB1 in the endothelial cells that line all blood vessels.
According to the background information, these cells jump-start new blood vessel growth via a process called angiogenesis, during which biological signals prompt endothelial cells to release enzymes and other chemicals that allow them to move away from existing blood vessels and form new ones.
The researchers say that while angiogenesis plays a critical role in embryo growth, CIB1 appears to only affect blood vessel growth after injury.
In the study, Parise noted that mice born without copies of the CIB1 gene would survive and remain reasonably healthy unless injured.
"CIB1 appears to be an attractive drug target to control blood vessel growth since it does not play an essential role during fetal development but instead plays an important role in pathological forms of blood vessel growth," said Dr. Mohamed Zayed, first author and medical student at UNC.
The experiments showed that CIB1 was critical for angiogenesis in the retina as well as in hind legs. In both cases, the new blood vessel growth was prompted by ischemia (restricted blood flow).
The researchers pointed out that clinicians treating retinal disease needed to restrict blood vessel growth in the eyes, while patients with restricted blood flow in their limbs needed to grow blood vessels.
Based on this proposition, they came to the conclusion that CIB1 could be a target for both angiogenic drug therapies for both categories of patients.
Parise said that her team was still determining the exact role CIB1 plays in angiogenesis.
"We think it's involved in the chemical pathways that control blood vessel growth, such as signal transduction events," she said.
The results will appear in an upcoming print issue of the journal Circulation Research.