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A new study, led by Professor Kim Dora in association with Professor Raimondo Ascione at the University of Bristol, has shown abnormalities in the tiny blood vessels of human hearts which cannot be detected by current heart scans. Poor myogenic (automatic) tone, where blood flow in these vessels is abnormal, is thought to develop independent of disease in the larger arteries, which can be treated using stents or bypass surgeries.

This study, funded by the British Heart Foundation, used tissue biopsies to study the function, structure and alterations in pathways in the micro-arteries that link to abnormalities in myogenic tone. The research team found that 44 per cent of the micro-arteries, from patients with no large coronary artery blockages and undergoing valvular cardiac surgery, had abnormal myogenic tone despite retaining their cell viability. This abnormality was associated with an excessive presence of a molecule called caldesmon within the muscle cells in the wall of the abnormal micro-arteries and with poor alignment of these contracting cells compared to micro-arteries with normal myogenic tone.

Kim explained: “Not only will our findings enhance the development of new medical treatments and possibly new patient imaging modalities, but they represent a new ex-vivo research model for thousands of scientists globally working on microvascular dysfunction in the heart and other organs.”

Full details can be found in the new paper published in Cardiovascular Research

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