Critical element that improves vascular function in postmenopausal women found

February 14, 2012, University of Colorado Denver

Researchers studying why arteries stiffen in postmenopausal women have found a specific chemical cofactor that dramatically improves vascular function.

Kerrie Moreau, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, discovered that BH4 or tetrahydrobiopterin plays a key role in arterial health of women. BH4 is a critical cofactor of the enzyme endothelial nitric oxide synthase or eNOS. The two combine to create nitric oxide which is highly beneficial to arterial health.

"Nitric oxide causes arteries to dilate, without it they are more constricted which can lead to arterial stiffening. That stiffening can cause , thickening of the and increase the risk for stroke, heart disease and dementia" said Moreau, who works in the Division of Geriatrics at CU School of Medicine. "If there is not enough BH4, the eNOS enzymatic function does not work as well and less nitric oxide is produced. That leads to an increase in free radical formation or oxidative stress. Increased oxidative stress can decrease the amount of nitric oxide and BH4, creating a ."

The study will be published in the – Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

Moreau, the lead researcher in the study, gave BH4 to estrogen-deficient, postmenopausal women and assessed them three hours later. She found that dilation of the arteries increased while stiffness decreased. When premenopausal women were given BH4, nothing happened.

Researchers also took two groups of and gave one group a placebo and the other estrogen patches. They examined the results 48 hours later and discovered those who took estrogen experienced similar effects to those given BH4 while the women who received placebos experienced no changes. When the women who were taking estrogen were also given BH4 there was no further benefit.

"That suggests estrogen may benefit by maintaining BH4 levels," Moreau said. "Having adequate BH4 levels would result in increased and decreased free radicals, promoting vasodilatation and reducing arterial stiffness."

It has been long known that menopause has significant impacts on women's health.

"Menopause is like an accelerated aging process," Moreau said."When women hit menopause you see this dramatic decline in arterial health." Moreau's discovery of the key role BH4 plays in this process sheds more light on the decline in arterial health and why it may not be inevitable.

"As we identify the causes of the vascular health decline we can next intervene with appropriate therapeutic strategies including exercise, diet and/or hormone therapy," she said. "Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women but it is underappreciated in women who need a better understanding of cardiovascular health."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Anemia discovery offers new targets to treat fatigue in millions

January 22, 2018
A new discovery from the University of Virginia School of Medicine has revealed an unknown clockwork mechanism within the body that controls the creation of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The finding sheds light on iron-restricted ...

More surprises about blood development—and a possible lead for making lymphocytes

January 22, 2018
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have long been regarded as the granddaddy of all blood cells. After we are born, these multipotent cells give rise to all our cell lineages: lymphoid, myeloid and erythroid cells. Hematologists ...

How metal scaffolds enhance the bone healing process

January 22, 2018
A new study shows how mechanically optimized constructs known as titanium-mesh scaffolds can optimize bone regeneration. The induction of bone regeneration is of importance when treating large bone defects. As demonstrated ...

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

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.

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.