Could this Protein Protect People against Coronary Artery Disease?

Research led by UNC’s Jonathan Schisler, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, showed much lower levels of the protein CXCL5 in older people with clogged arteries.

Could this Protein Protect People against Coronary Artery Disease? click to enlarge Jonathan Schisler, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology

November 16, 2017

CHAPEL HILL, NC – The buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries is an unfortunate part of aging. But by studying the genetic makeup of people who maintain clear arteries into old age, researchers led by UNC’s Jonathan Schisler, PhD, have identified a possible genetic basis for coronary artery disease (CAD), as well as potential new opportunities to prevent it.

According to research published in the American Journal of Pathology, the protein CXCL5 is found in much higher levels in older adults with much clearer heart arteries.

“CXCL5 looks to be protective against CAD, and the more CXCL5 you have, the healthier your coronary arteries are,” said Schisler, assistant professor of pharmacology and member of the UNC McAllister Heart Institute. “Our findings suggest that there may be a genetic basis to CAD and that CXCL5 may be of therapeutic interest to combat the disease.”

Schisler and his colleagues analyzed blood samples and heart scans from 143 people over age 65 who were referred to the UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill for cardiovascular screening. The analysis revealed that people with clear arteries had markedly higher levels of CXCL5, as well as genetic variants near the CXCL5 gene, compared with people with more plaque.

CSCL5 Levels and Coronary Artery Protection
Patients with no obstructed blood flow in the coronary arteries had higher levels of CXCL5 (blue) compared to patients with moderate levels (green) or lower levels (yellow) of CXCL5, who had increased severity of coronary obstructions (indicated by the arrows). (Schisler lab)
CAD is the most common cause of heart attacks and the leading cause of death in the United States. Despite increased awareness of its risk factors and a variety of available treatment options, CAD has remained a persistent public health challenge.

Previous studies linked CXCL5 to inflammation, leading some researchers to assume the protein was harmful. But recent research in mice suggested the protein could help limit plaque buildup by changing the composition of fat and cholesterol deposits in the arteries. Schisler’s finding offers the first evidence that CXCL5 could play a protective role in people, at least in the context of CAD.

(~excerpt from full article of same title on SOM Newsroom.) Read the full article by Mark Derewicz here...