A natural defence mechanism against heart disease could be switched on by steroids sold as health supplements, according to researchers at the University of Leeds.
The University of Leeds biologists have identified a previously-unknown ion channel in human blood vessels that can limit the production of inflammatory cytokines – proteins that drive the early stages of heart disease.
They found that this protective effect can be triggered by pregnenolone sulphate - a molecule that is part of a family of 'fountain-of-youth' steroids. These steroids are so-called because of their apparent ability to improve energy, vision and memory.
Importantly, collaborative studies with surgeons at Leeds General infirmary have shown that this defence mechanism can be switched on in diseased blood vessels as well as in healthy vessels.
Surely this hormone causes side effects if taken for a long time. Surely a substantial fraction (likely well over half) of the population should not take it as a disease preventative. But for some number of people (if we could only identify who they are) this drug might lower overall risk of disease and death.
I expect a combination of genetic testing and blood testing will become sensitive enough to predict very high risk for heart disease and other diseases. Once a small fraction of the population can be identified as having a special very high risk of a disease then it will become easier to decide that the side effects of a hormone therapy or other drug therapy really are worth it.
The problem with a lot of disease preventing drugs (e.g. statins) that people take for many years is that inevitably a substantial fraction of the people taking such preventative drugs were never going to get whatever disease was meant to avoid. We need far greater predictive power in medical tests so that we can know when treatments will deliver a net benefit for each person.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2010 May 18 10:59 PM Aging Cardiovascular Studies|