Scientists at the Center for Biomedical Research in Network for Cardiovascular Diseases (CIBERCV) found that levels of a protein called galectin-3 are associated with the progression or prevention of aortic aneurysm. Its pharmacological inhibition in experimental mouse models resulted in the reduction of aortic diameter. This result opens new possible lines of research for the prevention and treatment of this disease, as well as for creating new therapeutic targets.
The abdominal aortic aneurysm is a disease caused by a permanent enlarged area in the lower part of the aorta, the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the body. It can be dangerous if it is not spotted early on, as it could cause a rupture causing life-threatening bleeding. However, this disease is mostly asymptomatic; so diagnosis occurs in most cases casually, when performing tests for other reason. So far, there is no drug treatment to limit the progression of the aneurysm and prevent rupture.
The team of CIBERCV found that levels of galectin-3 protein are increased in patients with abdominal aortic aneurysm, and an association between the protein levels and disease progression.
The study, led by Dr. José Luis Martin-Ventura, CIBERCV researcher at the Foundation Institute of Health Research ‘Jiménez Díaz’, evaluates the possible role of galectin-3 as a biomarker to aid in the prognosis of patients with abdominal aortic aneurysm. To assess the possible therapeutic role inhibiting this protein, the researchers used a compound called MCP (modified citrus pectin). This natural product is derived from a starch (specifically a heteropolysaccharide) called pectin, found in the skin and pulp of some fruits.
The pharmacological inhibition of galectin-3 by MCP in mouse models of aneurysm resulted in a reduction of the aortic diameter. “The beneficial effect of its inhibition by drugs seems to be mediated by the regulation of monocyte recruitment, thus decreasing the inflammatory response,” explains Dr. Martin-Ventura, who added that this research shows a new way for diagnosis and prevention of this disease, and new therapeutic targets.
“Since the pectin compound can be administered orally without generating toxicity, and its use as a dietary supplement has been adopted in countries like the United States, its possible transfer to the clinic would be feasible,” concludes the researcher.