Study tags sclerostin as biomarker of aortic valve calcification, heart disease

Aortic valve calcification--the buildup of calcium on heart valves--was once thought to be harmless but is now seen as an early sign of heart disease. In a study presented at RSNA 2011, researchers have linked sclerostin, a bone marker, with calcium deposits in the heart, opening up a potential new approach to heart disease diagnosis and treatment.

At RSNA 2011 (Radiological Society of North America 97th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting), a team of researchers from the University Clinic in Aachen, Germany, linked increased levels of sclerostin and age with higher degrees of calcification in the heart valves. Dr. Andreas Mahnken explained to Medscape Medical News that "we are just at the point that we are learning that it [AVC] is an active and not a passive process."

Sclerostin is produced by bone cells called osteocytes, and inhibits bone formation. A number of antisclerostin therapies are in development for the treatment of osteoporosis, including a sclerostin-neutralizing monoclonal antibody (AMG 785) with Amgen ($AMGN) and UCB, now in Phase 2 clinical trials.

Targeting sclerostin with antibodies could, according to the researchers, be a route to slowing or stopping aortic valve calcification, through it is unlikely to be able to reverse the effects of existing disease, which can narrow the valve and reduce the flow of blood (stenosis).

- see the abstract
- check out the article in Medscape Medical News