Genetic test helps guide cardiovascular therapy

A group led by UF Health researchers has found a quick, precise genetic test that can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by helping to identify more effective medication for some heart patients. The test identifies a genetic deficiency that affects the body’s ability to activate clopidogrel, a common anti-clotting drug given after a coronary artery stent is inserted. The study examined the effect of genotype-guided treatment on cardiovascular outcomes after a heart procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, in which a metallic stent is inserted into a heart artery to treat a blockage. Using the genetic data to guide changes in therapy reduced the percentage of deaths, heart attacks or strokes by nearly half compared with those who continued taking clopidogrel, the researchers found.   — Doug Bennett

A boost for ‘working memory’

UF researchers have identified a subtype of a specific receptor in the brain that is critical for “working memory,” or the ability to hold information in mind for a short time, an ability that often diminishes with normal aging. The UF team showed how the loss of that receptor predicts the severity of working-memory impairment due to aging. They also found they could use a drug to positively affect those receptors and enhance working memory in rats. The findings suggest a potential future pathway for drug treatment to target these receptors and improve working memory in humans.   — Michelle Koidin Jaffee

Self-nourishing cancer cells detected

As cancerous tumors fester, they need an ever-increasing blood supply to deliver the oxygen and nutrients that fuel their growth. UF researchers have shown how some tumors can bolster their own blood supply. A subset of cancer cells can get reprogrammed into more mobile cells that are essential to a tumor’s steady blood supply through a process known as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, or EMT. The UF Health-led study is the first to show how that process sustains blood vessels. Using human and mouse breast cancer cells in mouse models, the researchers found that a small number of cancer cells undergo EMT, which allows them to associate with cells that constitute the inner layer of the blood vessel wall and begin stabilizing vessels that nourish tumor growth  — Doug Bennett

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February 2017

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