A rare type of protein found within meat could help treat obesity and cardiovascular diseases, scientists have said.
A team from the US and Japan has discovered the protein, which they say is unique to human and animal species, can prevent a type of heart disease known as arteriosclerosis.
It is believed the protein could be the reason for a decline in cardiovascular deaths worldwide over the last few decades.
The research was published online in the journal Cell Reports.
A study in animals is not conclusive, but the researchers believe the protein is able to prevent the formation of plaque in the arteries that is associated with atherosclerosis, the most common form of heart attack in humans.
“It was clear that we needed to find a way to make the proteins that are in meat, but there was no other way,” said Dr David Schulte, a professor of nutritional sciences at Stanford University.
“We did some research with animal proteins that have been used for a long time, and found that these proteins could be used as a novel treatment for cardiovascular disease.”
Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco tested the protein for its ability to block the formation and progression of arteriosclerotic plaque.
They found that the protein was able to reduce the formation rate and reduce the progression of atherosclerotic plaques in mice.
The researchers found the protein to have an anti-atherosclerotactic effect, which means it prevents the formation or progression of the plaque.
The proteins were also able to inhibit the formation in mice of two other types of plaques known as microangiopathy and atherosome-mediated plaque.
Prof Schulten said the protein may have important applications for other diseases.
“There is some evidence that this protein could help fight atherosarcoma and stroke, and maybe it could be useful for heart failure,” he said.
Prof David Schults work at Stanford’s Department of Nutritional Sciences and Nutrition.
Image copyright University of Caledonia Image caption The team used an enzyme called SOD2A to test the protein in mice