Protein causes varicose veins

November 4, 2011, University Hospital Heidelberg

Varicose veins, sometimes referred to as "varices" in medical jargon, are usually just a cosmetic problem if they occur as spider veins. In their advanced stage, however, they pose a real health threat. In people with this widespread disorder, the blood is no longer transported to the heart unhindered but instead pools in the veins of the leg.

This is because the or venous valves no longer function adequately. Dr. Thomas Korff and his group at the Division of Cardiovascular Physiology (Director: Prof. Markus Hecker) of Heidelberg University's Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology have now shown that the pathological remodeling processes causing varicose veins are mediated by a single protein.

As a response to increased stretching of the vessel wall, this protein triggers the production of several molecules promoting changes in wall architecture. The paper published in the current issue of may offer a possibility for using drugs to decelerate the formation of or even prevent new varicose veins.

Previously, no suitable experimental systems existed for studying the way in which these changes in the cells of the blood vessels are controlled. For their studies, Korff and his team took advantage of the fact that blood vessels in the mouse ear are clearly visible and are also easily accessible for minor surgical procedures. In order to artificially set off processes that are similar to the formation of varicose veins, they tied off a vein with a thin thread. The elevated pressure in the vessels caused by the pooled blood led to the recognizable remodeling characteristic of varicose veins. In addition, in the affected veins, the rate and the production of MMP-2 increased. MMP-2 is an enzyme that breaks down the non-cellular components of the connective tissue of the blood vessels. On the other hand, there were no signs of an , which can be observed during other vessel remodeling processes.

Model allows agents to be tested

"Nevertheless, the cellular mechanisms that control the formation of varicose veins appear to be similar to mechanisms that orchestrate the remodeling of arteries in patients with high blood pressure," Korff explains. The transcription factor AP-1 which regulates the activity of certain genes and thus the corresponding protein production is regulated by the filling pressure in the and in turn controls the formation of varicose veins, Korff adds. If AP-1 is inhibited, thus prohibiting it from activating genes, the characteristic corkscrew-like varicose veins do not form and cell proliferation and the production of enzymes that break down connective tissue remain at normal levels.

In a further experiment, the group showed that the results obtained in the mouse are also valid for humans. Varicose veins that have been surgically removed from patients exhibited the same cellular and molecular changes as the varicose veins created artificially in the mouse ear. Based on these results, Korff plans more studies. "Using our model, we can now more precisely analyze the early stages of the disorder and test possible drugs for their ability to prevent varicose vein formation, which, as a result, may improve the quality of life of afflicted patients."

According to the German Vascular League, 30 million people suffer from minor vein-related symptoms, whereby women are affected around twice as often as men. According to a health report published by the German government, 15 to 20 percent of the population has .

Explore further: Scientists discover the proteins that control development of varicose veins

More information: FASEB J. 2011 Oct;25(10):3613-21. Epub 2011 Jun 17

Related Stories

Scientists discover the proteins that control development of varicose veins

September 29, 2011
A new discovery published in the October 2011 print issue of The FASEB Journal explains for the first time what kicks off the process that causes varicose veins. In the article, researchers from Germany describe a single ...

Foam injections for varicose veins better for patients and cheaper, study finds

September 25, 2011
Foam injections to treat varicose veins cause less pain for patients and could save NHS money compared with a popular alternative treatment, according to researchers at Imperial College London. The study found that foam therapy ...

Techniques to treat varicose veins appear comparable in effectiveness

September 19, 2011
Endovenous laser treatment (EVLT) and high ligation and stripping (HLS) are both associated with effectiveness and safety in treatment of insufficiency of the great saphenous vein (GSV), but EVLT is more frequently associated ...

Recommended for you

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

Researchers devise decoy molecule to block pain where it starts

January 16, 2018
For anyone who has accidentally injured themselves, Dr. Zachary Campbell not only sympathizes, he's developing new ways to blunt pain.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.