A team of researchers led by investigators from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has identified the stem cells responsible for calcium buildup in the arteries, a major problem for kidney disease patients. Found in the outer layers of the arteries, Gli1 positive stem cells have the ability to change cell type depending on their environment. While Gli1 cells can play a part in healing blood vessels, the scientists believe this healing function goes awry when kidney disease is present. Instead of becoming healing smooth muscle cells, Gli1 cells in the blood vessels of CKD mice became osteoblasts, cells which deposit calcium and build new bone. Removing Gli1 cells in these mice prevented calcification. Gli1 cells appear to be a promising target to prevent hardened arteries and deadly cardiovascular disease. Further research is needed to find out how to harness the healing effects of these cells.
Scientists Find Culprit Responsible for Calcified Blood Vessels in Kidney Disease, Medical Xpress, September 8, 2016