Calcification is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Blood vessels can harden as calcium phosphate (CaP) crystals, normally found in bones and teeth, build up in soft tissue as we age or as a result of illness. This can lead to complications in patients with atherosclerosis, a major cause of death in the UK whereby arteries thicken and are at risk of becoming blocked.
However a team of scientists at the BBSRC-funded Babraham Institute has discovered how CaP damages vessels, and how proteins normally found in our circulation can help prevent this process. In the study funded by the British Heart Foundation, researchers found that small CaP crystals were being consumed by blood vessel cells, resulting in abnormally high levels of calcium ions, which can prove toxic.
They discovered that two proteins in the blood, fetuin-A and albumin, can slow down the uptake of CaP crystals by blood vessel cells, reducing the release of calcium ions and protecting against damage.
Dr Diane Proudfoot, who led the study, explained: “Small changes in calcium levels within a cell controls many aspects of normal cell function. However, when calcium levels become excessive, the cell can die. By delaying the uptake of these crystals and reducing the release of calcium ions, proteins fetuin-A and albumin can help to keep calcium ions at a safe level.”
Source: Medical News Today.