Researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK have discovered a gene that plays a vital role in blood vessel formation, research which adds to our knowledge of how early life develops. The discovery could also lead to greater understanding of how to treat cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Professor David Beech, of the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, who led the research, said: "Blood vessel networks are not already pre-constructed but emerge rather like a river system. Vessels do not develop until the blood is already flowing and they are created in response to the amount of flow. This gene, Piezo1, provides the instructions for sensors that tell the body that blood is flowing correctly and gives the signal to form new vessel structures. The gene gives instructions to a protein which forms channels that open in response to mechanical strain from blood flow, allowing tiny electrical charges to enter cells and trigger the changes needed for new vessels to be built." The research team is planning to study the effects of manipulating the gene on cancers, which require a blood supply to grow, as well as in heart diseases such as atherosclerosis, where plaques form in parts of blood vessels with disturbed blood flow. Professor Beech added: "This work provides fundamental understanding of how complex life begins and opens new possibilities for treatment of health problems such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, where changes in blood flow are common and often unwanted. "We need to do further research into how this gene can be manipulated to treat these diseases.
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