Canadian researchers identify an early biomarker of atherosclerosis

May 16, 2013

In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Eric Thorin, PhD, of the Montreal Heart Institute (MHI), suggests that a blood protein contributes to the early development of atherosclerosis. Blood levels of angiopoietin-like protein 2 (angptl2) increase in patients with cardiovascular disease as well as in people with complications related to diabetes, obesity and cancer in which the small blood vessels are damaged; all of these diseases are associated with chronic inflammation.

The study was conducted using an animal model consisting of three- to twelve-month-old mice. Dr. Thorin’s team discovered that the blood levels of angptl2 are six times higher in subjects with coronary heart disease than in healthy subjects of the same age. Their study also revealed that angptl2, which is undetectable in young mice, increases with age in healthy subjects and increases prematurely in subjects who have high cholesterol and pre-atherosclerotic lesions.

“Although much work remains to be done to broaden our knowledge of this protein's mechanisms of action, angiopoietin-like protein 2 may represent an early biomarker not only to prevent vascular damage but also to predict atherosclerotic disease,” explains Dr. Thorin.

According to Anil Nigam, MD, a specialist in cardiovascular disease prevention at the MHI and a study co-author, “Prevention is the ideal solution to delay the onset of atherosclerosis, and an early blood marker such as angptl2—if future clinical studies confirm this finding—will serve as an important tool to identify at-risk subjects.” Read the study.