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A DISCOVERY that makes it [...].

A DISCOVERY that makes it possible to speed up or slow down the growth of blood vessels could yield new ways of tackling cancer and heart disease, it was claimed.

Scientists in the US identified a "switch" made from a short strand of genetic material that plays a crucial role in blood vessel renewal. They also produced a complementary molecule that can turn it off, and a way to deliver either particle into living tissue.

Effectively, the researchers put themselves into a biological driving seat that allowed them to either ramp up blood vessel growth, or slow it down.

The formation of new blood vessels is known as angiogenesis and is one of the main driving forces behind cancer. Tumours promote angiogenesis to provide themselves with a network of blood vessels that fuel their growth. Without sufficient blood vessels to feed it, a tumour will die.

Tackling uncontrolled blood vessel growth has become a key anti-cancer strategy of drug companies. Unwanted blood vessels can also lead to malformations and growths called haemangiomas.

On the other hand, extra blood vessel development may be needed in patients who suffered strokes, heart attacks or diabetes.

The "switch" molecule identified at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) is a small short-stranded microRNA called miR-132 - a tiny genetic cousin of DNA.

"In tumour vessels or in haemangiomas, this particular microRNA is abundant and capable of maintaining extensive vascular growth," said study leader Professor David Cheresh, whose work is outlined in the journal Nature Medicine.

"The effect is similar to a car that's speeding out of control because its gas pedal is stuck to the floor and its brakes aren't working."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 9, 2010
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