Biology in Pictures: Clot forming in artery

Clot forming in artery on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

The missing link between belly fat and heart disease?

By now, everyone knows that overweight people have a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and other problems that arise from clogged, hardened arteries. And people who carry their extra weight around their waist – giving them a “beer belly” or an “apple” shape — have the highest risk of all.But despite the impact on human health, the reasons behind this connection between heart disease and belly fat – also known as visceral fat — have eluded scientists. Now, a new study in mice gives the first direct evidence of why this link might exist – and a tantalizing look at how it might be broken.
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Lipoic acid could reduce atherosclerosis, weight gain

A new study done with mice has discovered that supplements of lipoic acid can inhibit formation of arterial lesions, lower triglycerides, and reduce blood vessel inflammation and weight gain – all key issues for addressing cardiovascular disease.

Although the results cannot be directly extrapolated beyond the laboratory, researchers report that “they strongly suggest that lipoic acid supplementation may be useful as an inexpensive but effective intervention strategy . . . reducing known risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis and other inflammatory vascular diseases in humans.”

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Beating Heart Created In Laboratory: Method May Revolutionize How Organ Tissues Are Developed

By using a process called whole organ decellularization, scientists from the University of Minnesota Center for Cardiovascular Repair grew functioning heart tissue by taking dead rat and pig hearts and reseeding them with a mixture of live cells. The research will be published online in the January 13 issue of Nature Medicine.

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Researchers reveal missing link in a heart disease pathway

University of Michigan scientists and their colleagues have helped characterize a previously unknown link in the chain of biochemical reactions implicated in some forms of heart disease.

The finding provides a new target for future drug therapies.

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Eating your greens could prove life-saving if a heart attack strikes

A diet rich in leafy vegetables may minimize the tissue damage caused by heart attacks, according to researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Their findings, published in the November 12 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that the chemical nitrite, found in many vegetables, could be the secret ingredient in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.

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Cholesterol drug hits diabetes with one-two punch

Patients with type 2 diabetes may soon be able to control their glucose and their cholesterol levels with a single drug, according to a study led by Vivian A. Fonseca, professor of medicine and pharmacology at Tulane University School of Medicine and chief of the Tulane University Health Sciences Center Diabetes Program.

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Research suggests fitness reduces inflammation

Although a number of studies have suggested that regular exercise reduces inflammation – a condition that is predictive of cardiovascular and other diseases, such as diabetes – it is still not clear whether there is a definitive link. And if such a link exists, the nature of the relationship is by no means fully understood.

A recent study by kinesiology and community health researchers at the University of Illinois provides new evidence that may help explain some of the underlying biological mechanisms that take place as the result of regular exercise.

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It’s not too late to change and lower cardiac risk later in life

Can adopting a healthier lifestyle later in life help — or is it too late? In a study published in the July 2007 issue of The American Journal of Medicine, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston found that people 45 to 64 years of age who added healthy lifestyle behaviors could substantially reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and reduce their death rate. Once these people achieved 4 healthy behaviors, eating at least 5 fruits and vegetables daily, exercising at least 2.5 hours per week, maintaining their Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 30 kg/m, and not smoking, investigators saw a 35% reduction in CVD incidence and a 40% reduction in mortality compared to people with less healthy lifestyles.

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Serious diseases genes revealed

A major advance in understanding the genetics behind several of the world’s most common diseases has been reported.The landmark Wellcome Trust study analysed DNA from the blood of 17,000 people to find genetic differences. They found new genetic variants for depression, Crohn’s disease, coronary heart disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 and 2 diabetes.

The remarkable findings, published in Nature, have been hailed as a new chapter in medical science.

Read rest of the article at BBC Newssite

Exercise may slightly boost ‘good’ cholesterol levels

Regular exercise appears to modestly increase levels of high-density lipoprotein, or “good,” cholesterol, according to a meta-analysis study in the May 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
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Precursor Cells Generated From Human Embryonic Stem Cells Show Ability to Repair Vascular Damage

Scientists reported for the first time that hemangioblast precursor cells derived from human embryonic stem (hES) cells can be used to achieve vascular repair.

The research, which appears today online (ahead of print) in the journal Nature Methods, by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) and its collaborators, describes an efficient method for generating large numbers of bipotential progenitors–known as hemangioblasts–from hES cells that are capable of differentiating into blood vessels, as well as into all blood and immune cell lineages.
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A steady, high-fat diet is bad, but the news gets worse

So much for the adage, ‘All things in moderation.’ Researchers at the University of Calgary have found that people who consume a single, high-fat meal are more prone to suffer the physical consequences of stress than those who eat a low-fat meal.
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Link found between immune system and high plasma lipid levels

Researchers at the University of Chicago have found an unsuspected link between the immune system and high plasma lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood) in mice. The finding could lead to new ways to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering elevated lipid levels.
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Despite significantly raising HDL, torcetrapib failed to slow the progression of coronary plaques

Investigators reported today that torcetrapib, a drug that substantially raises high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or HDL (the “good” cholesterol), did not slow the progression of plaque buildup in the coronary arteries as measured using an ultrasound probe (IVUS). All development of this drug was terminated on December 2, 2006 after the safety board monitoring a separate large clinical outcomes trial reported that torcetrapib increased the risk of death and other adverse cardiovascular outcomes.
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Light wine intake is associated with longer life expectancy in men

Drinking a little alcohol every day, especially wine, may be associated with an increase in life expectancy. That’s the conclusion of Dutch researchers who reported the findings of their study today at the American Heart Association’s 47th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

The researchers found that a light intake of alcohol (on average less than one glass per day) was associated with a lower rate of cardiovascular death and death from all causes. When compared to spirits and beer, consumption of small amounts of wine, about a half a glass a day, was associated with the lowest levels of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths. Alcohol treatment may be necessary to reduce the rate of cardiovascular death due to consumption.
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Inflammation is culprit in many ailments

Chronic inflammation spurred by an immune system run amok appears to play a role in medical evils from arthritis to Alzheimer’s, diabetes to heart disease. There’s no grand proof of this “theory of everything.” But doctors say it’s compelling enough that we should act as if it were true — which means eating an “anti-inflammatory diet,” getting lots of physical activity, and losing the dangerous, internal belly fat that pumps out the chemicals that drive inflammation.

This is a year old article but well written to summarize the potency of inflammation as source of age-related damage.

Caffeine may prevent heart disease death in elderly

Habitual intake of caffeinated beverages provides protection against heart disease mortality in the elderly, say researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Brooklyn College.

Using data from the first federal National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study, the researchers found that survey participants 65 or more years old with higher caffeinated beverage intake exhibited lower relative risk of coronary vascular disease and heart mortality than did participants with lower caffeinated beverage intake.
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Researchers find only vegetarian low-carb diet is associated with lower risk of heart disease

Advocates of low-carbohydrate diets, such as the popular Atkins diet, claim that those diets may help prevent obesity and coronary heart disease (CHD). However, the long-term safety of those diets has been debated, particularly because they encourage the consumption of animal products, which are high in saturated fats and cholesterol and could potentially increase the risk of CHD. Prevailing dietary recommendations have advocated a contrary approach, recommending diets that are low in fat and high in carbohydrates as the best way to manage weight and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the first study to look at the long-term effects of low-carbohydrate diets, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found no evidence of an association between low-carb diets and an increased risk of CHD in women. Their findings did suggest, however, an association between low-carb diets high in vegetable sources of fat and protein and a low risk of CHD.
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Researchers demonstrate ability of new therapy to treat severely elevated cholesterol levels

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have demonstrated the potential of a new type of therapy for patients who suffer from high cholesterol levels. The findings are in the January 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). In this study, patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a high-risk condition refractory to conventional therapy, had a remarkable 51% reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” levels.
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Researchers warn milk eliminates cardiovascular health benefits of tea

Research published online today in the European Heart Journal has found that the protective effect that tea has on the cardiovascular system is totally wiped out by adding milk.

Tests on volunteers showed that black tea significantly improves the ability of the arteries to relax and expand, but adding milk completely blunts the effect. Supporting tests on rat aortas (aortic rings) and endothelial (lining) cells showed that tea relaxed the aortic rings by producing nitric oxide, which promotes dilation of blood vessels. But, again, adding milk blocked the effect.
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Nitrates lower blood pressure

A type of nutrient found in vegetables like spinach and lettuce may be Mother Nature’s way of keeping blood pressure in check.

A small new study published at New England Journal of Medicine suggests the nitrates in many vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, or beetroot, may keep blood vessels healthy and lower blood pressure.

Read rest of the story at WebMD.

Longevity gene keeps mind sharp

A gene variation that helps people live to a ripe old age also appears to preserve memory and thinking power, US work suggests. The “longevity” gene alters the size of fatty cholesterol particles in the blood, making them bigger than normal.

This stops them causing the fatty build up in blood vessels that is linked with brain impairment, and deadly strokes and heart attacks, Neurology reports.
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Link identified between age, cardiovascular disease

Researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University have discovered a fundamental mechanism that causes aging blood vessels to lose their elasticity – a literal “hardening of the arteries” that is often a prelude to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

An understanding of this mechanism, scientists say, provides an important new target for both drugs and dietary changes that might help prevent or treat atherosclerosis and heart disease. This is a leading cause of death around the world that, in some form, affects about 80 percent of older Americans.
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A new recipe for artificial blood vessels may help solve a tough clogging problem

Small, artificial blood vessels are meant to offer hope to cardiac-bypass patients. The problem is that these tiny synthetic vessels tend to clog. Now, biomedical engineer Donald Elbert and his team at Washington University, in St. Louis, have developed a new material designed to trick the body into building vessels from its own cells.
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Further evidence that moderate drinking reduces men’s heart attack risk

Even as studies have consistently found an association between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced heart attack risk in men, an important question has persisted: What if the men who drank in moderation were the same individuals who maintained good eating habits, didn’t smoke, exercised and watched their weight? How would you know that their reduced risk of myocardial infarction wasn’t the result of one or more of these other healthy habits?

A new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) helps answer this question. Reported in the October 23, 2006 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, the findings show for the first time that among men with healthy lifestyles, those who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol – defined as between one-half and two drinks daily – had a 40 to 60 percent reduced risk of heart attack compared with healthy men who didn’t drink at all.
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Stretching bone marrow stem cells pushes them towards becoming blood vessel

When stretched, a type of adult stem cell taken from bone marrow can be nudged towards becoming the type of tissue found in blood vessels, according to a new study by bioengineers at the University of California, Berkeley.

Researchers placed mesenchymal stem cells onto a silicone membrane that was stretched longitudinally once every second. It was a cellular workout routine that helped point the bone marrow stem cell in the direction of becoming the smooth muscle tissue of vascular walls.

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Scientists find boosting protein levels staves off heart failure

Boosting levels of a protein in the heart might help protect against the development of heart failure, particularly in those who have had heart attacks.

Cardiology researchers at the Center for Translational Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia found that increasing levels of the protein S100A1 above normal helped protect animal hearts from further damage after simulated heart attacks. In some cases, the animals’ heart function hardly changed at all. At the same time, other animals with heart cells lacking the gene for the protein couldn’t handle the stress of a heart blockage; they went on to develop heart failure.
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Alpha-lipoic acid completely prevents atherosclerosis in mice

An article published in the August, 2006 issue of the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes reported the findings of Xianwen Yi and Nobuyo Maeda of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that giving alpha-lipoic acid to mice in whom diabetes was induced prevented the increase in cholesterol, atherosclerotic lesions and health deterioration that the disease would otherwise cause. Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant nutrient that has been used to treat diabetic neuropathy, however, its effects in diabetic cardiovascular disease have not been completely evaluated.

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Key fat and cholesterol cell regulator identified, promising target

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital have identified how a molecular switch regulates fat and cholesterol production, a step that may help advance treatments for metabolic syndrome, the constellation of diseases that includes high cholesterol, obesity, type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. The study is now published in the online version of the scientific journal Nature and will appear in the August 10th print edition.
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Blood clot fibers more elastic than spider’s web

The tiny fibers that comprise blood clots show extraordinary elasticity, on average stretching to almost three times their length while still retaining their ability to go back to their normal shape and expanding to more than four times their length before breaking, according to findings published in the journal Science this week by researchers at Wake Forest University.
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Natural vitamin E tocotrienol reaches blood at protective levels

Two recent studies offer new evidence suggesting an alternative form of natural vitamin E can be taken by mouth and will reach the blood in humans at levels determined to protect against stroke and other diseases.
Vitamin E occurs naturally in eight different forms. The primary vitamin E on drugstore shelves is called tocopherol, or TCP. But another natural form of vitamin E surfacing as a potent neuroprotective agent in repeated Ohio State University Medical Center studies is tocotrienol, or TCT.
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Green tea and the ‘Asian Paradox’

There is a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer in Asia where people smoke heavily, which may be accounted for by high consumption of tea, particularly green tea, according to a review article published by a Yale School of Medicine researcher.

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Heart-healthy Compound In Chocolate Identified

In a multifaceted study involving the Kuna Indians of Panama, an international team of scientists has pinpointed a chemical compound that is, in part, responsible, for the heart-healthy benefits of certain cocoas and some chocolate products.

The study showed that epicatechin, one of a group of chemicals known as flavanols, was directly linked to improved circulation and other hallmarks of cardiovascular health. The researchers, hope the findings will lead to new dietary or medicinal methods for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health.

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Caloric restriction appears to prevent aging in the heart

Eating a very low-calorie yet nutritionally balanced diet is good for your heart. Studying heart function in members of an organization called the Caloric Restriction Society, investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that their hearts functioned like the hearts of much younger people.

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Building a Better Chemical Trap

You might expect that a stronger cage is always better. But the power of a new chemical cage announced this week lies in its weakness: It’s about 100 times more efficient at releasing its prisoner than its widely used counterparts. The flimsy molecular pen may help map the brain’s chemical circuitry and decipher the signals that control the beating heart.

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Researchers hone in on differentiation of heart stem cells

A team of scientists from the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) has identified a key factor in heart development that could help advance gene therapy for treating cardiac disorders.

The findings could help cardiac stem cell researchers one day develop strategies for gene and cell- mediated cardiac therapies.

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Virtual reality could help diagnose heart conditions

Virtual reality that allows doctors to visualise the heart in three dimensions could help in the diagnosis of heart conditions. A pilot study published today in the open access journal Cardiovascular Ultrasound reveals that doctors can diagnose heart conditions quickly and easily from virtual three-dimensional animated images or ’holograms’ of the heart. Three-dimensional (3D) holograms allow doctors to ’dive’ into the beating heart and see interior parts of the organ.
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Fantastic Voyage Into The Heart Delivers A Protector Against Heart Failure

Reminiscent of the 1966 sci-fi thriller Fantastic Voyage, where a surgical team is miniaturized and injected into a dying man, researchers from Harvard Medical School have used injectable self-assembling peptide nanofibers loaded with the pro-survival factor PDGF-BB to protect rat cardiomyocytes from injury and subsequent heart failure.
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