New Protein Bodes Well for Cardiovascular Health
UAlbany Scientists Patent Antibody that Prevents Blockages

Contact: Karl Luntta (518) 437-4981; cell (518) 265-4114; pager (518) 341-0316

ALBANY, N.Y. . (October 30, 2002) -- Biologists at the University at Albany have identified a protein that acts to foil the functions of cells that cause blockages in heart arteries. The new antibody, identified as Anti-gp38k, binds to and inhibits the glycoprotein (gp38k) that causes the stimulation and migration of these potentially dangerous cells.

"We have great hope for the antibody," said Albert Millis, the lead scientist on the research team and chairman of the University at Albany Biological Sciences department. "The protein is a potent inhibitor of vascular cell migration, suggesting that its use might prevent occlusive vascular disease before it begins."

The antibody has significant and wide-spread applications for treating vascular diseases and for operating rooms, where it could be applied to artery stents and angioplasties to reduce coronary occlusions created by these procedures. Coronary vessel walls, when traumatized even slightly, such as when stent or catheter is inserted, create an environment for the stimulation and migration of certain types of sticky cells from within the artery wall. Rather than pass through the system via the blood flow, these smooth muscle and endothelial cells adhere to blood vessel walls, causing additional blockages.

The cell aggregation properties of the glycoprotein gp38k were first identified in a 1995 article in the Journal of Biological Chemistry authored by Millis, Lisa M. Shackelton and David M. Mann, former pre-doctoral students of Dr. Millis at the University at Albany. Subsequent experiments led to an understanding of its role in vascular cell migration and to the development of Anti-gp38k. In October 2002, the antibody was patented as a therapy for occlusive blood vessel disease.

Millis has studied the pathologies of vascular diseases for more than twenty years. "We first became interested in identifying processes that affect cell migration and adhesion, and for years we investigated the subtle properties of these cells and the molecules that regulate their biological functions," he said.

While the new antibody therapy has not yet been tested clinically, its properties of inhibiting the movement of certain cells also has shown preliminary promise for the treatment of cancer. In particular, it appears to inhibit the migration of breast cancer cells.

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