Effects of Free Radicals on Coronary Artery
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Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart and hence the control of coronary tone is pivotal to human survival. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) in specified amounts play an important role in normal metabolic and signalling processes. However, excess ROS can cause severe cardiovascular damage. For example, NO is produced by endothelium as a signal for relaxation. However, in an inflammatory response, NO from endothelium or macrophages can combine with superoxide to produce more deleterious peroxynitrite. Excess ROS have been associated with loss of coronary artery pliability--loss of contraction in some instances and relaxation in others. Atherosclerosis may also be considered an inflammatory response that leads to artery blockage, coronary disease and ischaemia-reperfusion. ROS produce various types of damage to ion channels and pumps and this damage is associated with vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and hypertension. Endothelium and smooth muscle in the coronary artery are also affected differently by individual ROS. In fact, endothelium may act to protect the underlying smooth muscle against ROS. This review will give an overview of this field.
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