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Oxford University scientist have discovered the molecular ‘first responder’ which detects disturbances in the flow of blood through the arteries, and responds by encouraging the formation of plaques which can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke and even death.

Atherosclerosis, Cholesterol plaque in artery. 3d illustration

The study, published in the journal Nature, found that mice without this molecule in its right shape don’t have clogged arteries, even when they eat an unhealthy high fat diet.

Atherosclerosis is a potentially fatal disease where fatty plaques clog up the arteries supplying blood to the heart, brain and other organs. These plaques cause the arteries to narrow and can increase the risk of blood clots that could block blood flow to the heart or brain, making it more likely that patients with atherosclerosis will suffer from heart attacks or strokes.

But scientists have known for over 200 years that the plaques don’t form just anywhere in the arteries – they are much more likely to form where the arteries curve or split, causing whorls and eddies in the blood flowing through them.

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website