The hardening of arteries is produced by calcium deposits, which leaves key vessels stiff and restricts blood flow to surrounding organs and tissue. There is risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and vascular dementia. Currently, there is no treatment. In fact, until now. The researchers identified that a molecule responsible for repairing DNA in cells, known as PAR, was behind the hardening of arteries.
Professor Cathy Shanahan, from King’s College London, said: “This hardening, or biomineralisation, is essential for the production of bone, but in arteries it underlies a lot of cardiovascular disease and other diseases associated with ageing, like dementia.” In lab trials on rats, scientists successfully used a 22p a day acne drug called minocycline to prevent the deadly build-up. A test on humans could be conducted before 2021. “Now, researchers have shown how calcification of the walls of blood vessels takes place, and how the process differs from normal bone formation. By doing so, they have been able to identify a potential treatment to reduce blood vessel calcification without any adverse effects on bone,” Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, said.