Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Road Block
03 February 2015

Road Block

Out on the road, closed lanes and other obstructions cause frustration and delays, often forcing traffic to grind to a halt. More worryingly, the same problems can occur within our arteries, the network of vessels that supplies our organs with oxygen and nutrients. In the process of vascular calcification (VC), crystals of calcium phosphate (pictured) aggregate inside the vessels’ walls, impeding circulation. The consequences are predictably devastating; in patients suffering from chronic kidney disease, VC is the main cause of death. Research has shown that crystal formation is not a passive process, but rather that smooth muscle cells surrounding arteries can actively influence their deposition. This means there could be ways to influence cells so that calcification is reduced; for example, the presence of magnesium is known to alleviate symptoms. Understanding how this works, and what other factors are involved, will help devise means of slowing this deadly process.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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