In a study from Manchester Metropolitan University, scientists found how to prevent one of the most common types of a heart attack.
The study allows researchers to put forward recommendations for possible drug therapies to prevent heart attacks caused by plaque erosion, which has not been possible before.
Around 30% of heart attacks are caused by plaque erosion, where the inner lining of blood vessels—known as the endothelium—detaches.
The endothelium provides protection to the blood vessels so when it falls away the blood starts to clot, which can then trigger a heart attack.
Plaque erosion is most commonly seen in younger individuals, smokers and women, which is why this type of heart attack is believed to be increased by lifestyle factors including smoking.
In the study, the team used information from patients to create a tissue culture model of the blood vessel.
They discovered that a mechanism designed to sense and protect from the damage caused by smoking, can in fact go in overdrive and interfere with cell adhesion.
Loss of endothelial cells from the artery ultimately triggers the blood to clot, blocking the coronary artery and starving the heart of oxygen.
Chemicals in cigarette smoke were used to test this theory and were found to supercharge the process. Scientists say it’s possible other factors, including air pollution, could have a similar effect.
Researchers say heart attacks remain a leading cause of death, so extending the understanding of the mechanisms underlying plaque erosion provides hope for the prevention of future events.
Future work will expand the understanding of this pathway and test new drugs to prevent this process from triggering heart attacks.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about drinking coffee to prevent heart disease and stroke, and results showing Omega-3 fats may lower risk of irregular heart rhythm.
The study was conducted by Dr. Stephen White et al and published in Cardiovascular Research.
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