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Science Papers Examine Influence of Gut Microbiome on Cancer, Gene Variant with Role in Atherosclerosis

A review of the role of the gut microbiome in cancer is published in this week's Science. In it, investigators from the University of California, San Francisco, and their colleagues provide a historical overview of studies into cancer and the human microbiota, and evaluate recent data to delineate between causal and complicit roles of microbes in cancer, tracing common themes of their influence through the host immune system. They also review evidence for intratumoral microbes and approaches that manipulate the host's gut or tumor microbiome and discuss areas of future research.

A genetic variant previously linked to coronary artery disease (CAD) is shown in this week's Science Translational Medicine to have a role in atherosclerosis, opening the door to potential new target for therapeutic intervention in CAD. In the study, a group led by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine aimed to determine whether a mutated form of the gene SVEP1 that is a known CAD risk variant is also involved in atherosclerosis. The scientists found that SVEP1 was highly expressed in vascular smooth muscle cells in tissue samples from patients with atherosclerosis and that it is upregulated in a mouse model of atherosclerosis. SVEP1 was also found to induce proliferation and differentiation of smooth muscle cells and promote inflammation in plaques. Results suggest that targeting SVEP1 could protect against atherosclerosis. "These findings suggest that targeting SVEP1 or selectively modulating its interactions may be a viable strategy for the treatment and prevention of CAD," the study's authors write.