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Genetic 'signature' discovered in plaque, possible key to future treatment

August 5, 2011
American Heart Association
Researchers have found differences in artery plaque in people who had stroke and people who didn't. These differences -- found in the genetic profile of each plaque -- could allow researchers to target treatments to plaques that are most likely to rupture and cause a heart attack or stroke.

Italian researchers may have identified a genetic "signature" for dangerous plaque that leads to stroke.

Reporting from their study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, the researchers said a pattern of five microscopic bits of genetic material called microRNAs (miRNAs) -- a genetic "signature" -- were present only in the plaque from patients who had experienced a stroke.

This is the first report to suggest that miRNAs may provide an important clue about which plaque in artery walls is the most dangerous.

Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other things found in the blood. Plaque can be "stable" or "unstable." Some remains as a bump or streak on the artery wall and others cause clots that lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers studied 31 patients who had plaque build-up but had not had a stroke and 22 patients who had plaque and had experienced a stroke. They looked for miRNAs.

MicroRNAs are shorter molecular chains than messenger RNA, which take the genetic information contained within the DNA and allow it to be turned into proteins with various functions. MicroRNAs don't translate genetic information, but they bind to the longer messenger RNAs and act as an "on/off" switch to help regulate protein production.

By identifying the specific miRNA signature, researchers hope to find new ways to prevent and treat stroke. For example, new medicines can be designed to hone in on plaques with the potential to rupture.

Story Source:

Materials provided by American Heart Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Francesco Cipollone, Lara Felicioni, Riccardo Sarzani, Sante Ucchino, Francesco Spigonardo, Claudia Mandolini, Sara Malatesta, Marco Bucci, Chiara Mammarella, Donato Santovito, Federica De Lutiis, Antonio Marchetti, Andrea Mezzetti, Fiamma Buttitta. A Unique MicroRNA Signature Associated With Plaque Instability in Humans. Stroke, 2011; DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.110.597575

Cite This Page:

American Heart Association. "Genetic 'signature' discovered in plaque, possible key to future treatment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 August 2011. <>.
American Heart Association. (2011, August 5). Genetic 'signature' discovered in plaque, possible key to future treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 14, 2024 from
American Heart Association. "Genetic 'signature' discovered in plaque, possible key to future treatment." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 14, 2024).

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