Researchers suggest that a protein could be linked to heart attacks

Sept. 8, 2014

Researchers at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, led by Alexandre Stewart, PhD, have uncovered an intriguing link between heart attacks and the protein PCSK9. In research published recently in PLOS One, the researchers found that levels of PCSK9 were elevated in the blood of patients having an acute heart attack, but not in those who never had a heart attack or who had recovered from one previously. The results were replicated in two separate groups of patients, all of whom had coronary artery disease but were not taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug.

According to Stewart, the findings point to an important question: “Are PCSK9 levels elevated shortly before you get a heart attack?” He continues: “If levels only go up after, that would suggest a side effect of the heart attack. But if they go up before, that suggests it might trigger the event, or make it worse.”

The researchers first identified the PCSK9 link to heart attacks using blood samples from patients enrolled in the Ottawa Heart Genomics Study. They confirmed these results in a group of patients from Emory University. Again, they found elevated PCSK9 levels in samples taken from patients at the time of acute heart attack, but not in samples taken from patients with a history of heart attack or from those with coronary artery disease who never had a heart attack.

The medical community and pharmaceutical companies are already highly interested—and invested—in PCSK9 for its effects on LDL cholesterol. PCSK9 increases levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream by reducing the ability of liver cells to remove and destroy it. Research indicates that blocking the effects of PCSK9 may offer a new way to substantially lower LDL cholesterol. The link of PCSK9 to the event of a heart attack provides important new information about this protein. Read the study.

Read more