EU-funded researchers shed new light on role of platelets in heart disease

By Redazione

EU-funded researchers have demonstrated the role of platelets in cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes and obesity, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide,
accounting for around 30% of all deaths; on the one hand, reductions in risk factors such as smoking and cholesterol levels, coupled with improvements in treatments for acute problems, have
brought the incidence of coronary heart disease down

However, an increase in cases of obesity and diabetes is now contributing to a rise in the number of deaths from heart disease.

The eicosanoids and nitric oxide (NO) are important signalling molecules in many physiological and pathological processes, including cardiovascular disease. Giovanni Davì and Carlo
Patrono are members of the EICOSANOX (‘Eicosanoids and nitric oxide: mediators of cardiovascular, cerebral & neoplastic diseases’) project. They are based at the G. D’Annunzio University
Foundation, Chieti, Italy and the Catholic University School of Medicine, Rome, Italy, respectively, and have been investigating the role of platelets in atherothrombosis. An overview of their
results is published in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Platelets play a key role in atherothrombosis, which is one of the leading causes of heart attacks and strokes. The researchers have succeeded in demonstrating persistent platelet activation in
people in the early stages of diabetes as well as in people who are obese but appear to be otherwise healthy. They did this by measuring levels of thromboxane; thromboxane is an important
platelet eicosanoid.

The scientists also characterised both aspirin-sensitive and aspirin-insensitive mechanisms of platelet activation in patients with vascular disease. Their research offers important new
insights into the role of platelets in the development of atherosclerotic plaques and forms the basis of further studies on the use of anti-platelet interventions as a means to slow down the
rate of plaque development.

The EICOSANOX project is funded to the tune of ?10,699,981 under the ‘Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health’ thematic area of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). It started in
2005 and is set to run until 2009. In addition to heart disease, eicosanoids and nitric oxide are implicated in a number of diseases, including dementia and cancer.

The project brings together Europe’s leading researchers in the eicosanoid field. They are carrying out basic and applied research with a view to developing new targets for drugs to treat these
diseases, which together account for the majority of deaths in Europe.

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