The whole cardiovascular system becomes increasingly calcified with advancing age. As is also the case for the accumulation of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) this process increases vascular stiffness and otherwise degrades the functionality of heart and blood vessel tissues. A few researchers have proposed a similar strategy to that adopted for AGEs, which is to find drugs to remove the calcification. Here, however, an alternative approach is suggested:
Cardiovascular calcification (deposits of minerals in heart valves and blood vessels) is a primary contributor to heart disease, the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States. "Unfortunately, there currently is no medical treatment for cardiovascular calcification, which can lead to acute cardiovascular events, such as myocardial infarction and stroke, as well as heart failure. We have not found a way to reverse or slow this disease process, which is associated with aging and common chronic conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetes, and kidney disease."
A team of [researchers] has discovered certain proteins in osteoclasts, a precursor to bone, that may be used in helping to destroy cardiovascular calcification by dissolving mineral deposits. The research suggests a potential therapeutic avenue for patients with cardiovascular calcification. Mature osteoclasts are not typically found in the vasculature. Using unbiased global proteomics (study of proteins), the researchers were able to examine osteoclast-like cells in the vasculature to determine which proteins induced osteoclast formation. They identified more than 100 proteins associated with osteoclast development. Follow-up study validated six candidate proteins, which serve as targets for possible medications that may help promote osteoclast development in the vasculature.
"To advance this research, we need to further understand why osteoclasts are not prevalent in the vaculature, despite active calcification of the heart valves and blood vessels, and determine the difference between calcification in vasculature compared with calcification in bone. Then, we may examine ways to form osteoclasts in the vasculature."