Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

A study of over 1,000 patients with atherosclerosis reveals fat tissue secretes factors that can trigger or worsen blood vessel conditions linked to cardiometabolic disorders.

By clarifying the poorly-understood link between obesity and blood vessel conditions, the findings could help scientists create new therapies for vascular and metabolic diseases like coronary artery disease. The study is published in Science Translational Medicine

Obesity changes how fat tissue secretes signaling molecules, which in turn can influence the structure and function of blood vessels in the body.

Studies have implicated both the Wnt signaling pathway and oxidative stress from enzymes as contributors to vascular disease, but the mechanisms by which obesity affects these pathways remain a mystery. Seeking insight, Ioannis Akoumianakis (a DPhil student from the Antoniades group), together with researchers from OCDEM, Bristol Medical School and Athens University medical School, analyzed a group of 1,004 patients with atherosclerosis.

The researchers discovered that obese individuals showed much higher levels of a protein named WNT5A in plasma, as well as elevated expression of WNT5A receptors in the walls of arteries.

In a separate experiment, the authors saw that higher levels of WNT5A in plasma correlated with the development of calcified plaques – a key marker of vessel disease – in 68 patients with coronary artery disease.

Further studies showed obesity boosted the secretion of WNT5A from fat tissue surrounding blood vessels, which in turn increased oxidative stress and the migration of smooth muscle cells through the enzymes USP17 and RAC1.

The authors suggest that WNT5A and the enzymes it affects could be targeted in obese patients, although further work in animal models is necessary.

Read the paper

We want to hear about your news!

Publishing a paper? Just won an award? Get in touch with


Similar stories

EASD-Robert Turner Clinical Research Training Course

This interactive and highly successful course returns to the face-to-face format in 3-7 April 2022 for its 18th year.

RDM researchers awarded Oxford-Bristol Myers Squibb Fellowships

The Oxford - Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) Fellowships Programme continued to demonstrate significant progress over the last year, despite the challenges associated with the global pandemic, including restricted lab access and work from home guidance. Six new Oxford-BMS Fellowships for 2021 were announced.

Changes in blood cell production over the human lifetime may hold clues to patterns of disease

A new paper published this week in Cell Reports reveals that changes in the gene expression of blood stem cells occur across the human lifetime; an important step in the understanding and treatment of blood disorders.

COVID-19 recovery project nominated for HSJ award

The project, involving Oxford University Hospitals, Defence Medical Services (DMS), and the Radcliffe Department of Medicine is in the running for a prestigious honour at the Health Service Journal Awards 2021.