New York: Researchers have discovered a new gene that controls blood vessel formation -- presenting a possible new drug target for cancer and heart disease. The joint team from Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) uncovered a role for the gene, Wars2, in the process of angiogenesis - a process controlling formation of a network of blood vessels that enables the body to deliver the nutrients necessary to keep the tissues and organs alive and healthy. "Using different genetic techniques, we inhibited Wars2 function in both rats and zebrafish, and the resulting animals showed impairment of blood vessel formation within the heart and in the rest of the body," said Mao Wang from Duke-NUS, the co-first author of the study. To confirm the involvement of Wars2 in angiogenesis, the researchers increased the effect of Wars2 and showed that blood vessel formation was enhanced. Specifically, they were able to determine that Wars2 plays an important role in supplying sufficient endothelial cells, the building blocks of blood vessels, for angiogenesis, according to the study published recently in the journal Nature Communications. "Finding a way to control angiogenesis not only provides a target for the development of anti-cancer therapies, but may also prove useful in similarly starving abnormal blood vessel growth elsewhere in the body, like in diabetic eye disease," said Stuart Cook of Duke-NUS.