Determining if Estrogen is Protective Against Degenerative Changes in Blood Vessel Walls
Aydin Arici, M.D.,Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a major contributor to making cardiovascular disease the leading cause of death among women. The decline of estrogen in women is associated with increased CAD, yet the underlying mechanisms through which estrogen may be a protective factor against CAD is unknown. Dr. Arici’s study examined whether estrogen has a protective effect against degenerative changes in blood vessel walls by inhibiting a protein that recruits damage to artery walls.
Highlighted Study Findings
One way in which estrogen seems to have a protective effect against degenerative changes in blood vessel walls is by inhibiting a protein that recruits damage to the walls of arteries. Among the earliest recognizable events in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) are a build-up of plaque in the arterial wall and an increased influx of macrophages (which initially serve a disease-fighting positive role). Recent data indicate that a specific protein, known as monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1), may act to recruit macrophages to the artery wall in numbers that begin to play an adverse role. Dr. Arici studied the impact of estrogen on MCP-1 using a mouse model. The results of this study suggest that one way in which estrogen seems to have a protective effect against degenerative changes in blood vessel walls is by inhibiting MCP-1. This finding provides specific insights into the mechanisms of estrogen’s action. Better understanding of the selective molecular mechanisms of estrogen’s action is necessary for the development of improved estrogenic substances which preferentially affect certain tissues, such as heart, rather than others, such as breast. These new agents are necessary provide more targeted interventions for women and thus provide a major benefit to their health.