Researchers have recently provided evidence for a correlation between levels of CXCL5 and progression towards coronary artery disease in aging. The more CXCL5 present, the better the state of the arteries in the study group:
For many people, coronary artery disease (CAD) - the buildup of plaque in the heart's arteries - is an unfortunate part of aging. By studying the genetic makeup of people who maintain clear arteries into old age, researchers have identified a possible genetic basis for the disease, as well as potential new opportunities to prevent it. "Our main goal was to try to understand why some people develop CAD and some people with similar risk factors do not, and we found that older people give us a great model to understand the natural disease process." Researchers analyzed blood samples and heart scans from 143 people over age 65 who were referred for cardiovascular screening. The analysis revealed that people with clear arteries had markedly higher levels of a protein called CXCL5, as well as genetic variants near the CXCL5 gene, compared with people with more plaque.
Previous studies linked CXCL5 with inflammation, leading some researchers to assume the protein was harmful. But recent research in mice suggested the protein could help limit plaque buildup by changing the composition of fat and cholesterol deposits in the arteries. The new finding offers the first evidence that CXCL5 could play a protective role in people, at least in the context of CAD. In addition to offering clues about how CAD develops, the study opens new possibilities for prevention and treatment. For example, it may be possible to develop a drug that mimics the effects of CXCL5 or that increases the body's natural CXCL5 production to help prevent CAD in people at high risk. The protein could even potentially be leveraged to develop a new, nonsurgical approach to help clear clogged arteries. One limitation of the study is that because all participants were referred for a heart scan, the study did not include healthy patients. Further research is needed to confirm the role of CXCL5 in CAD and explore drug development opportunities.