The Quest to Activate a Commonly Inactive Protective Protein

New research sponsored by the American Heart Association found high levels of a protective protein, albeit an inactive version of the protein, in the blood of African-Americans on dialysis.  Matrix Gla protein, or MGP, has high affinity binding to calcium ions and therefore inhibiting vascular calcification. Researchers believe finding ways to activate this protein can lead to lower rates of vascular disease in current dialysis patients.

MGP is activated by vitamin K and appears to be the only natural inhibitor of vascular calcification while vitamin K is the only known activator of MGP. Active MGP binds to calcium that circulates in the blood preventing it from lining blood vessel walls. Investigators measured MGP levels in 37 African-Americans on hemodialysis as well as 37 age and race matched healthy individuals. The individuals on dialysis had inactive MGP levels that were 5.6 times higher than healthy controls. Vitamin K is found in leafy green vegetables which as dialysis patients know, are very high in potassium.  The researchers have outlined next steps including more adults with chronic kidney disease in addition to dialysis patients to look at the impact of taking vitamin K supplements on their cardiovascular health.

Read more about this study and where the future of this research lies here.