On World Heart Day, research related to the main cause behind age-related arterial dysfunction has been revealed that may change the course of medication for cardiovascular diseases around the world.
With the world’s elderly population expected to double by 2050, understanding cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 cause of death worldwide, is a key to answer the problem. Since aging afects
everyone and causes changes throughout our bodies, the reason behind it is a key to address the issue, said Erika Boerman, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study.
“We found that older arteries had a significantly lower number of sensory nerves in the tissues surrounding them and they were less sensitive to an important neurotransmitter responsible for dilation,” she explained.
Boerman’s study focused on mesenteric arteries, which supply blood to the small intestines. In the mice aged 4 months and 24 months old, which correspond to humans in their early 20s and mid-60s, respectively, showed the diameter of the blood vessels of both younger and older mice was approximately the same. However, when stimulated to induce dilation, differences between the age groups became apparent.
“The younger arteries dilated as expected,” Boerman said. “However, when we performed the same stimulation to the arteries of older mice, the vessels did not dilate. When we examined the presence of sensory nerves, we noted a 30 percent decrease in the amount surrounding the older arteries compared to the younger arteries.”
Even when purposefully exposing older mesenteric arteries to defined amounts of the neurotransmitter calcitonin gene-related peptide, or CGRP, the arteries’ ability to dilate was greatly reduced, they noted.
“Poor neurotransmitter function and a reduced presence of sensory nerves surrounding older vessels lead to age-related dysfunction of mesenteric arteries,” Boerman said.
Identifying this new mechanism of vascular dysfunction opens the door for future studies that could eventually lead to the treatment of health issues such as stroke and cardiovascular disease.
The study was published in The Physiological Society’s Journal of Physiology.