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DKK3 protein found to protect against atherosclerosis

View:49 Time:2017-07-17

Described 11 July 2017 in Circulation, a study led by an international research team has shown that a cytokine-like protein DKK3 provides protection against atherosclerosis. Accordingly, the protein DKK3 is considered a potential therapeutic agent to treat atherosclerosis in humans, but more research is required to confirm the findings.

The international research team consists of investigators from the King's College London BHF Centre and Queen Mary University of London in the UK, Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria, Capital Medical University in China, Bruneck Hospital in Italy, and DKFZ-ZMBH Alliance and Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.

The dickkopf-related protein 3 (DKK3) is a member of the dickkopf (DKK) family, which are secreted proteins. DKK3 is expressed in a variety of tissues in the body, such as the heart. Recent studies have implicated DKK3 in the regulation of cardiac remodeling and vascular smooth muscle cell differentiation. However, the exact function of DKK3 is incompletely understood.

The current study aimed to examine the role of DKK3 in atherosclerosis. Senior author Prof. Qingbo Xu and the team analyzed the levels of DKK3 in the blood of people in 2000 and then in 2005. Results showed that people with higher plasma DKK3 levels had a lower risk of atherosclerosis. Next, Prof. Xu's team created genetically engineered mice to study DKK3's role. Mice lacking DKK3 had a reduced ability to regrow the endothelial tissue coating the blood vessels following damage, and were more likely to develop atherosclerosis. Taken together, these findings suggest that the protein DKK3 may protect against atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up inside the arteries, and it is a major cause of heart attacks and stroke. Heart disease and stroke, along with other cardiovascular diseases, place a heavy burden on health care services. The World Health Organization says that cardiovascular diseases are the biggest killer globally: approximately 17 million people die of cardiovascular diseases annually. The new study demonstrates the protective effect of DKK3 against atherosclerosis. Therefore, boosting DKK3 levels may be a strategy to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.

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