UA Researchers Develop New Tool for Understanding Blood Flow and Heart Disease

July 30, 2008

By hammersmith

[Source: Deborah Daun, BIO5] – UA researchers have developed a new tool for better understanding a chemical that regulates everything from blood flow and wound healing to lung function and memory formation. Their work may one day pave the way for new treatments for heart disease and other illnesses.

BIO5 member William Montfort, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry in the College of Science, collaborated with researchers working with insects to produce the protein soluble guanyl cyclase (sGC) in the lab. sGC occurs naturally in our bodies; it is important because it binds to and regulates a remarkably versatile chemical called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is found in our bodies as well.

“Our cells use it to regulate huge amounts of our physiology,” Montfort says. Among other things, nitric oxide is also the active ingredient in nitroglycerin, which has long been manufactured as a drug to relax blood vessels and control the chest pain associated with heart disease.

By better understanding the workings of sGC, scientists can potentially better understand how nitric oxide works as well. Yet producing enough sGC to study in the lab has long been a challenge, because the genes that produce sGC in humans don’t produce much of it, at least not in a stable form. Humans aren’t the only ones who produce sGC and nitric oxide, however.

Montfort learned that a colleague of his in the Arizona Research Laboratories Neurobiology Division, Associate Professor Alan Nighorn, PhD, was also studying sGC