UCLA researchers Tamer Sallam, left, and Peter Tontonoz expect that further...
UCLA researchers Tamer Sallam, left, and Peter Tontonoz expect that further exploration will lead to new insights into normal physiology as well as disease.
Credit: UCLA Health

News • Discovery

'Selfish' gene may protect against heart disease

Scientists have identified a gene that may play a protective role in preventing heart disease.

Their research revealed that the gene, called MeXis, acts within key cells inside clogged arteries to help remove excess cholesterol from blood vessels. Published in the journal Nature Medicine, the UCLA-led study in mice found that MeXis controls the expression of a protein that pumps cholesterol out of cells in the artery wall. MeXis is an example of a “selfish” gene, one that is presumed to have no function because it does not make a protein product. However, recent studies have suggested that these so-called “unhelpful” genes can actually perform important biological functions without making proteins and instead producing a special class of molecules called long non-coding RNAs, or lncRNAs.

Photo
Mouse blood vessel with plaque accumulation.
Source: Sallam Lab

“What this study tells us is that lncRNAs are important for the inner workings of cells involved in the development of heart disease,” said Dr. Peter Tontonoz, senior author of the study. He is also the Frances and Albert Piansky Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Considering many genes like MeXis have completely unknown functions, our study suggests that further exploring how other long non-coding RNAs act will lead to exciting insights into both normal physiology and disease.” In the study, researchers found that mice lacking MeXis had almost twice as many blockages in their blood vessels compared to mice with normal MeXis levels. In addition, boosting MeXis levels made cells more effective at removing excess cholesterol.

There is likely a good reason why genes that make RNAs rather than proteins exist. A key question for us moving forward is how they may be involved in health and disease

Tamer Sallam

In the next phase of the study, researchers will further explore how MeXis affects the function of cells in the artery wall and will test various approaches to altering MeXis activity. The researchers are interested in finding out if MeXis could be targeted for therapy of cardiovascular disease. “The idea that lncRNAs are directly involved in very common ailments such as plaque buildup within arteries offers new ways of thinking about how to treat and diagnose heart disease,” said Dr. Tamer Sallam, the study’s lead author. Sallam is an assistant professor in the department of medicine and co-director of UCLA Center for Cholesterol Management. “There is likely a good reason why genes that make RNAs rather than proteins exist. A key question for us moving forward is how they may be involved in health and disease.”


Source: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences

14.02.2018

Read all latest stories

Related articles

Photo

News • Cardiomyopathy research

Genetic defects can cause heart failure

Cardiomyopathy is not a uniform disease. Rather, individual genetic defects lead to heart failure in different ways, an international consortium reports.

Photo

News • Cardiology research

Covid-19 vaccine technique could also save tissue after heart attack

A method for delivering genetic material to the body that has proven useful in Covid-19 vaccination is now being tested as a way to repair damaged heart muscle after a heart attack.

Photo

Article • Cardiology

AI identifies genes linked to heart failure

The Queen Mary University of London team applied an artificial intelligence (AI) technique to analyse the heart MRI images of 17,000 healthy UK Biobank volunteers. They found that genetic factors…

Related products

Canon – Alphenix Biplane High Definition Detector

Bi-Plane

Canon – Alphenix Biplane High Definition Detector

Canon Medical Systems Europe B.V.
Canon – Alphenix Core

Single Plane

Canon – Alphenix Core

Canon Medical Systems Europe B.V.
Canon – Alphenix Core+

Single Plane

Canon – Alphenix Core+

Canon Medical Systems Europe B.V.
Canon – Alphenix Core+ High Definition Detector

Single Plane

Canon – Alphenix Core+ High Definition Detector

Canon Medical Systems Europe B.V.
Subscribe to Newsletter