Researchers at Lund University have mapped the location of atherosclerotic plaque ruptures, a leading cause of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke.
They have also identified an enzyme, MMP-9, which could potentially predict the risk of these life-threatening events.
The researchers examined atherosclerotic plaques in the carotid arteries of 188 individuals.
Their findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), show that plaque ruptures often occur at the beginning of the plaque, closest to the heart.
This discovery aids in understanding why these plaques rupture, potentially leading to heart attacks and strokes.
The Role of MMP-9
Through RNA sequencing, the study found a strong association between the enzyme MMP-9 and the area where plaque ruptures occur.
Higher levels of MMP-9 were also correlated with an increased risk of future cardiovascular disease in individuals with atherosclerosis.
The researchers hope that MMP-9 could be used as a marker to predict patients at risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Furthermore, they are exploring the possibility of developing treatments to reduce the risk of plaque rupture. Inhibiting the enzyme to decrease its activity could potentially prevent plaque ruptures.
However, they note the importance of avoiding unwanted side effects, given the enzyme’s other essential functions in the body.
The study’s leaders, Professor Isabel Goncalves and Andreas Edsfeldt, both of Lund University and Skåne University Hospital, emphasize the importance of early intervention.
Since atherosclerosis often does not cause symptoms at early stages, it can take years before the disease is detected.
By understanding the underlying mechanisms of plaque rupture, they hope to prevent serious complications such as sudden death, heart attack, or stroke, by treating dangerous plaques in time.
If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm.
If you care about stroke, please read studies about a breakfast linked to better blood vessel health, and olive oil could help lower risks of heart disease and stroke.
The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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