Protein found to stimulate–and guide–blood vessel growth – cardiology, neurology

Always wondered how it happened that when my father had his heart attack and they looked closely at his cardiac situation, they found that though he’d had a mild attack earlier in his life (that went undiagnosed and untreated because he was a stubborn guy about his health when he was younger), they found a huge vein that had grown around his heart to replace an artery that had become blocked. So now we can safely assume it was a protein called Netrin-1, one of a family of “neural guidance cues” that coax nerve fibers to go in specific directions as they grow, that must have caused his vein to kick in for the damaged vessel.

The scientist discovered this property of Netrin-1 after he found there was a receptor for a different neural guidance factor. Heck, they probably could have imagined this idea years before if they thought much about what they saw in my dad’s chest. When we see a miracle in a body, chances are we’ll be able to find a physiological mechanism in the body that made it happen.

But the “why” is another story.That’s where quantum physics and neuropeptides come in. If you haven’t yet seen the movie “What the #$@##$^ do we know?” I highly recommend it. Documentary style interviews with eminent physicists around the world are interspersed with a little story of self-discovery acted out by the young, attractive deaf actress Marlee Mattlin. The scene with the red, blue and silver emotional cells alone is worth the price of admission.

But the point is the existence of receptors in every part of our bodies and the power of our thoughts to influence the behaviors of those receptors and of our cells themselves. It’s worth seeing.