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Cancer hope as blood vessel discovery made

A discovery that makes it possible to speed up or slow down the growth of blood vessels could yield new ways of tackling cancer and heart disease, it has been claimed.

Scientists in the US identified a “switch” made from a short strand of genetic material that plays a crucial role in blood vessel renewal.

They also produced a complementary molecule that can turn it off, and a way to deliver either particle into living tissue.

Effectively, the researchers put themselves into a biological driving seat that allowed them to press either accelerator or brake — ramping up blood vessel growth, or slowing it down.

The “switch” molecule identified by scientists at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) is a short-stranded microRNA called miR-132 — a tiny genetic cousin of DNA.

“In tumour vessels or in haemangiomas, this particular microRNA is abundant and capable of maintaining extensive vascular growth,” said study leader Professor David Cheresh.

“The effect is similar to a car that's speeding out of control because its gas pedal is stuck to the floor and its brakes aren't working.”

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