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Demonstration of Rapid Onset Vascular Endothelial Dysfunction After Hyperhomocysteinemia. An Effect Reversible With Vitamin C Therapy *

Background—Hyperhomocysteinemia is a major and independent risk factor for vascular disease. The mechanisms by which homocysteine promotes atherosclerosis are not well understood. We hypothesized that elevated homocysteine concentrations are associated with rapid onset endothelial dysfunction, which is mediated through oxidant stress mechanisms and can be inhibited by the antioxidant vitamin C.

Methods and Results—We studied 17 healthy volunteers (10 male and 7 female) aged 33 (range 21 to 59) years. Brachial artery diameter responses to hyperemic flow (endothelium dependent), and glyceryltrinitrate (GTN, endothelium independent) were measured with high resolution ultrasound at 0 hours (fasting), 2 hours, and 4 hours after (1) oral methionine (L-methionine 100 mg/kg), (2) oral methionine preceded by vitamin C (1g/day, for 1 week), and (3) placebo, on separate days and in random order. Plasma homocysteine increased (0 hours, 12.8±1.4; 2 hours, 25.4±2.5; and 4 hours, 31.2±3.1 µmol/l, P<0.001), and flow-mediated dilatation fell (0 hours, 4.3±0.7; 2 hours, 1.1±0.9; and 4 hours, -0.7±0.8%) after oral L-methionine. There was an inverse linear relationship between homocysteine concentration and flow-mediated dilatation (P<0.001). Pretreatment with vitamin C did not affect the rise in homocysteine concentrations after methionine (0 hours, 13.6±1.6; 2 hours, 28.3±2.9; and 4 hours, 33.8±3.7 µmol/l, P=0.27), but did ameliorate the reduction in flow-mediated dilatation (0 hours, 4.0±1.0; 2 hours, 3.5±1.2 and 4 hours, 2.8±0.7%, P=0.02). GTN-induced endothelium independent brachial artery dilatation was not affected after methionine or methionine preceded by vitamin C.

Conclusions—We conclude that an elevation in homocysteine concentration is associated with an acute impairment of vascular endothelial function that can be prevented by pretreatment with vitamin C in healthy subjects. Our results support the hypothesis that the adverse effects of homocysteine on vascular endothelial cells are mediated through oxidative stress mechanisms.


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As with any procedure, there could be pain or other substantial risks involved. These concerns should be discussed with your health care provider prior to any treatment so that you have proper informed consent and understand that there are no guarantees to healing.

THE INFORMATION IN THIS WEBSITE IS OFFERED FOR GENERAL EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT IMPLY OR GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE. No Doctor/Patient relationship shall be deemed to have arisen simply by reading the information contained on these pages, and you should consult with your personal physician/care giver regarding your medical treatment before undergoing any sort of treatment or therapy.

Published on 12-01-2008
Authors: John C. Chambers, MRCP; Andrew McGregor, RGN; Jeff Jean-Marie; Omar A. Obeid, PhD; Jaspal S. Kooner, MD, FRCP
Source: Circulation. 1999;99:1156-1160