The aorta is a large blood vessel through which blood flows from the heart to the rest of the circulatory system and, for this delicate but vital process to happen normally, the aortic valve plays an essential role .This valve opens and closes both to let the blood flow out, and to prevent it from flowing back to the heart.
Calcified aortic valve disease(CAVD) is a pathology of the heart whereby either the valve does not close and open well, or its narrowness prevents blood from flowing as it should. This process can trigger a more serious disease: stenosis, a severe narrowing of the aortic valve that reduces the flow of blood to the tissues of the body and weakens the heart.
Today, the only treatment for stenosis is the replacement of the valve, which usually requires surgery risky and expensive open heart. But thanks to research from the Arlington Agricultural Research Station of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a possible route of treatment has been opened that would allow to prevent the disease and avoid such intervention.
The researchers analyzed, for the first time, the set of events that can trigger a stenosis.
“With a better understanding of how the disease progresses from early stages to later stages, eventually we can stop the CAVD and avoid valve replacement surgery,” the researchers said in the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research was conducted on pig models, since the hearts of animals as small as mice are very different from humans.
The pig hearts provided a snapshot of the CAVD in its early stages, which is difficult to capture in humans, showing that the disease begins with the accumulation of certain sugar molecules called glycosaminoglycans (GAG) in the valvular tissue.
By modifying the amount of GAG to which these valvular cells were exposed, they observed surprising results that challenged previous assumptions.
The more glycosaminoglycans received, the less inflammatory factors were produced in the cells. GAGs directly increased a chemical needed to develop new blood vessels. In addition, the GAGs trapped low density lipoprotein (LDL) molecules.
A new way of treatment
The next step would be to develop drugs that can prevent CAVD from progressing to stenosis by making glycosaminoglycans less likely to bind to these LDL lipoproteins.
By preventing stenosis from occurring, not only would we end up with this cardiac pathology, but we could avoid a risky and complex heart surgery.