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Clogged-up arteries and high fat diets could cause more widespread damage in the body than previously thought, according to new research.
The build up of fatty and fibrous deposits on the walls of arteries increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
But now scientists have found that this process, known as atherosclerosis, is also linked with a harmful chemical associated with a range of conditions including cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.
And they believe the findings could lead to new treatments for atherosclerosis and its potentially damaging side effects.
It comes after the US researchers studied laboratory mice that are genetically prone to atherosclerosis and fed a high fat diet.
The mice produced high levels of the harmful chemical, nitrotyrosine, in their hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys. No such increase was seen in mice that were fed normal diets.
But the scientists found they could reduce the levels of nitrotyrosine by deleting a gene, which makes an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), linked to the formation of atherosclerotic deposits.
The findings, presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans, show that furred up arteries and high-fat diets can trigger the accumulation of nitrotyrosine in various organs.
Study leader Dr Rita Upmacis, from Weill Medical College, Cornell University, New York, said: “The trick will be to develop a drug to block this pathway without causing any unwanted side-effects,” she added.
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