The science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , has reported that scientists from the University of Leicester and Cardiff University have achieved a breakthrough in understanding how a 'biochemical switch', known as P2X1, which is associated with strokes and heart disease is 'turned on'.

Professor Richard Evans of the University of Leicester's Department of Cell Physiology & Pharmacology, who led the research explained:

"P2X1 receptors are protein molecules expressed on blood platelets which are cells involved in blood clotting. Drugs that block these receptors have the potential to reduce "dangerous" blood clotting that leads to strokes and heart attacks. Our research has looked at how the P2X1 receptor is "turned on". By biochemical studies and purifying the P2X1 receptor and using an electron microscope we have 'visualized' the receptor and detected changes in its shape when it is activated.

The P2X1 receptor is made of three identical parts and we have shown that activation leads to these twisting against each other. We found that if we chemically locked the receptor to stop this twisting, then the P2X1 receptor could not be fully activated. This is important as it gives the first realistic insight into how these novel receptors are turned on."

Evans concluded saying:

"This work will help to develop drugs that can stop the P2X1 receptor being "turned on" and would be useful to prevent stroke and heart attack."

Written by Petra Rattue