UNSW researchers have uncovered an important naturally occurring mechanism in the body where "bad" cells that cause blockages in our blood vessels are kept under strict growth control, while "good" cells that keep our blood vessels free of clots and growths are left unaffected.
The discovery is expected to benefit those who will need heart coronary bypass surgery, an angioplasty - the mechanical widening of a narrowed or totally blocked blood vessel - or will undergo haemodialysis.
Professor Levon Khachigian, from UNSW's Centre for Vascular Research, who previously pioneered "molecular assassin" drug technology, describes this novel mechanism he discovered as "a molecular dictatorship with a conscience".
"The dictator is a specific gene suppressor called YY1, which has the therapeutically appealing capacity to differentiate between certain cell types when it goes about its activity," says Professor Khachigian.
This key finding has just been published in the world's premier cardiovascular research journal, Circulation Research.
Professor Khachigian's research provides new hope in tackling the global problems of coronary bypass graft failure, and restenosis - the closing or narrowing of an artery that was previously opened by a procedure such as angioplasty.
"While the most effective way to head off restenosis is a drug-coated stent, the drugs that sit on these stents inhibit the growth of good cells as well as the bad.
"If you had to have catheter intervention to re-open an occluded artery, for sustained symptom-free benefit you would be hoping for suppressed smooth muscle cell growth, without affecting endothelial cell growth," says Professor Khachigian.
"And that's exactly what happens when we simply top up blood vessels with the body's natural reserves of YY1."
Professor Khachigian is seeking commercial partnerships that can apply this technology in the clinic.
Contact details: Professor Levon Khachigian, + 61 405 540 010; Susi Hamilton, UNSW media unit, +61 2 9385 1583 or + 61 422 934 024