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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Eat less or exercise more? Either way leads to more youthful hearts

Overweight people who lose a moderate amount of weight get an immediate benefit in the form of better heart health, according to a study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. And the heart improvements happen whether that weight is shed by eating less or exercising more.

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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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Researchers discover novel pathway for increasing ‘good’ cholesterol

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered that a group of liver enzymes called proprotein convertases (PCs) may be the key to raising levels of good cholesterol (HDL-C). The pathway by which these proteins are able to achieve an increase in HDL cholesterol involves another enzyme that normally degrades HDL-C, and was also discovered at Penn. The newly recognized relationship between these enzymes and cholesterol represents another target for ultimately controlling good cholesterol.

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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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Faulty cell membrane repair causes heart disease

During vigorous exercise, heart muscle cells take a beating. In fact, some of those cells rupture, and if not for a repair process capable of resealing cell membranes, those cells would die and cause heart damage (cardiomyopathy)

Researchers at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine have discovered a specific repair mechanism in heart muscle and identified a protein called dysferlin that is critical for resealing heart muscle cell membranes.

The study, led by UI researcher and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Kevin Campbell, Ph.D., also shows that loss of dysferlin causes cardiomyopathy in mice. Furthermore, heart damage in these mice is exaggerated by vigorous exercise or by inherent muscle weakness caused by a muscular dystrophy defect.

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Scientists identify critical gene factor in heart development

Researchers at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) announced they have identified a critical genetic factor in the control of many aspects of heart form and function. As reported in the journal Cell, scientists in the lab of Deepak Srivastava, MD, have successfully deleted a genetic factor, called a microRNA, in animal models to understand the role it plays in cardiovascular differentiation and development.
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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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Dietary copper may ease heart disease

Including more copper in your everyday diet could be good for your heart, according to scientists at the University of Louisville Medical Center and the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center. Their studies show that giving copper supplements to mice eased the stress on their over-worked hearts by preventing heart enlargement. The study will be published online on March 5th in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.
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Whole-grain breakfast cereal associated with reduced heart failure risk

Eating whole-grain breakfast cereals seven or more times per week was associated with a lower risk of heart failure, according to an analysis of the observational Physicians’ Health Study. Researchers presented findings of the study today at the American Heart Association’s 47th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. For the present study, breakfast cereals that contain at least 25 percent oat or bran content were classified as whole grain cereals.
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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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Plant-derived omega-3s may aid in bone health

Plant-based omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) may have a protective effect on bone health, according to a team of Penn State researchers who carried out the first controlled diet study of these fatty acids contained in such foods as flaxseed and walnuts.

Normally, most of the omega-3 fatty acids in the diet are plant-derived and come mainly from soybean and canola oil. Other sources are flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts and walnut oil. Smaller amounts also come from marine sources, mainly fish, but also algae. Omega-3s are thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect and may play an important part in heart and bone health.
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Afternoon naps may boost heart health

The next health trend might come out of nursery school instead of the gym: A study of nearly 24,000 people found that those who regularly took midday naps were nearly 40% less likely to die from heart disease than non-nappers.

Researchers suggest that siestas might protect the heart by lowering levels of stress hormones.

Read rest of the story on New Scientist website.

Secret of Heart Regeneration Uncovered

New evidence to explain how a common tropical fish mends a broken heart may suggest methods for coaxing the damaged hearts of mammals to better heal, researchers report in the November 3, 2006 issue of Cell, published by Cell Press.

The researchers found that the hearts of zebrafish harbor progenitor cells that spring into action to restore wounded heart muscle. Cells from a membrane layer that surrounds the heart, called the epicardium, follow suit, invading the wounded cardiac tissue and stimulating the growth of new blood vessels.
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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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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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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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Growth factor triggers growth of new blood vessels in the heart

The newest concept for treating coronary artery disease is to induce hearts to grow their own new blood vessels to bypass damaged tissue or clogged arteries. Unfortunately, clinical trials of two important blood-vessel growth factors — fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) — have not produced stellar results.

Now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have investigated a third signaling molecule — called Sonic hedgehog — that could overcome problems associated with FGF2 and VEGF therapy.
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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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