Research involved the study of zebrafish, during which researchers identified the apoA-I binding protein in the fish and did several experiments to test the protein’s function.
“We tested AIBP in several pilot experiments and the one looking at angiogenesis, when new blood vessels sprout from the bigger ones and grow to form the blood circulatory system, was promising,” Miller said.
The researchers added DNA to inhibit AIBP synthesis in order to examine the angiogenesis — or formation of new blood vessels — in the zebrafish as they watched the embryos grow under a fluorescent microscope. Researchers noticed that the lack of AIBP caused excessive and chaotic blood vessel growth and proceeded to study the mechanisms behind their observations.
“The mechanism was linked to cholesterol, which is the major culprit of atherosclerosis, the disease that leads to heart attacks and stroke — a main direction of research in my lab so far,” Miller said. “We found that AIBP helps ensure an efficient cholesterol removal from endothelial cells. If this doesn’t happen, blood vessels overgrow and grow in wrong directions.”
In the future, the researchers intend to look at AIBP in cancer and cardiovascular systems after a heart attack, hoping to study the protein’s ability to cut off blood supply to cancerous tumors, which grow quickly and need new blood vessels for extra blood supply. Researchers will also investigate whether or not they can regulate AIBP after a heart attack in order to grow more blood vessels to supply the heart with more blood.
“These are big tasks and a lot of work [needs] to be done until we know if our findings will lead to new therapies,” Miller said.