The Stem Cell That Causes Heart Disease

Although medical experts have begun using stem cells in a variety of procedures, including breast augmentation, there’s still a lot more to learn about them. For instance, researchers with UC Berkeley have found a stem cell that causes heart disease.

The journal Nature Communications published this week a study from researchers with the UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Stem Cell Center. The findings come to contradict almost everything medical theories say about the cause of heart disease and arterial hardening. According to the report, stem cells might be at fault for heart disease and a variety of different other health problems.

Senior author Song Li, bioengineering professor, explains that during the research they were able to pinpoint to a new stem cell. It is in fact a type of stem cell that becomes active later in life, after staying “sleeping” in blood vessel walls. Once it becomes active, the stem cell Song Li’s team has identified becomes the root cause of heart disease, heart attacks and even strokes. The researchers referred to these particular stem cells as multipotent vascular stem cells.

“We call them sleeping beauty or sleeping evil cells, because they don’t do anything when they’re dormant” says Song Li. “The stem cells stay quiescent for decades before they start to grow and they make the blood vessels harden”

The theory that the activation of a dormant stem cell is behind the arterial hardening and thus heart disease contradicts most medical theories. Scientists believed that arterial hardening and clogging was caused by the wear and tear of the muscle cells of the arterial lining.

“This work should revolutionize therapies for vascular disease because we now know that stem cells rather than smooth muscle cells are the correct therapeutic target” added Song Li in the report.

“These findings shift the paradigm” explains Dr. Deepak Srivastava about the UC Berkeley study. Srivastava is the director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease at UCSF and told Medical News Today that the findings could change “the target for treating vascular disease” to a very different level.

“Maybe the reason we’ve met with limited success in treating heart disease is because we’ve been going after the wrong target” concludes Dr. Deepak Srivastava.

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