COLUMBIA, Mo. — Each year, about 610,000 Americans suffer their first heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart attacks and other symptoms of cardiovascular disease can be caused when blockage occurs in the arteries. In a new study from the University of Missouri, a scientist has discovered a natural defense against arterial blockage: bilirubin.
Bilirubin is typically something parents of newborns hear about when their children are diagnosed with jaundice. Generated during the body’s process to recycle worn-out red blood cells, bilirubin is metabolized by the liver and, usually, leaves the body harmlessly. (Many babies’ livers are not developed enough to metabolize the bilirubin, which results in the infants being diagnosed with jaundice, or high levels of bilirubin in their systems.) Now, MU scientists have found that bilirubin can be used to inhibit the clogging of arteries, and thus prevent the deadly consequences often experienced by individuals with cardiovascular disease. (more…)