Millions of people in the United States have a circulatory problem of the legs called peripheral vascular disease. It can be painful and may even require surgery in serious cases. This disease can lead to severe skeletal muscle wasting and, in turn, limb amputation. At The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth), scientists tested a non-surgical preventative treatment in a mouse model of the disease and it was associated with increased blood circulation. Their opensource proof-of-concept study appears in the journal Cell Reports.
Unlike previous studies in which other investigators used individual stimulatory factors to grow blood vessels the team identified and turned off a genetic switch that stifles blood vessel development. They discovered an inhibitory switch that degrades blood vessels. The group were able to genetically turn it off to prevent peripheral vascular disease in a preclinical study.
The team state that their next step will be to test this targeted treatment in models of other conditions that dramatically decrease circulation like diabetes and atherosclerosis.
Using individual growth factors to stimulate blood vessel growth often leads to the formation of leaky and non-functional blood vessels. By turning off a genetic switch that acts as a roadblock for blood vessel growth, the team were able to trigger and accelerate the natural process of blood vessel regeneration that involves a battery of growth factors. The switch is called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1 beta (PGC1beta) and could be a key to future treatments for additional conditions like cardiac myopathies, cancer and retinopathy.