A team of UK scientists has identified the mechanism behind hardening of the arteries, and shown in animal studies that a generic medication normally used to treat acne could be an effective treatment for the condition. The team, led by the University of Cambridge and King's College London, found that a molecule once thought only to exist inside cells for the purpose of repairing DNA is also responsible for hardening of the arteries, which is associated with dementia, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. There is no current treatment for hardening of the arteries, which is caused by build-up of bone-like calcium deposits, stiffening the arteries and restricting blood flow to organs and tissues. Supported by funding from the British Heart Foundation, the researchers found that poly(ADP ribose), or PAR, a molecule normally associated with DNA repair, also drives the bone-like calcification of arteries. Additionally, using rats with chronic kidney disease, the researchers found that minocycline -- a widely-prescribed antibiotic often used to treat acne -- could treat hardening of the arteries by preventing the build-up of calcium in the circulatory system. The study, the result of more than a decade of fundamental research, was published online on June 11, 2019 in Cell Reports. The open-access article is titled “Poly(ADP-Ribose) Links the DNA Damage Response and Biomineralization.” "Artery hardening happens to everyone as they age, and is accelerated in patients on dialysis, where even children develop calcified arteries. But, up until now, we haven't known what controls this process and therefore how to treat it," said Professor Melinda Duer, PhD, from Cambridge's Department of Chemistry, who co-led the research as part of a long-term collaboration with Professor Cathy Shanahan, PhD, from King's College London.
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