Background: Despite a vast literature, atherosclerosis and the associated ischemia/reperfusion injuries remain today in many ways a mystery. Why do atheromatous plaques make and store a supply of cholesterol and sulfate within the major arteries supplying the heart? Why are treatment programs aimed to suppress certain myocardial infarction risk factors, such as elevated serum homocysteine and inflammation, generally counterproductive?
Methods: Our methods are based on an extensive search of the literature in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease as well as in the area of the unique properties of water, the role of biosulfates in the vascular wall, and the role of electromagnetic fields in vascular flow. Our investigation reveals a novel pathology linked to atherosclerosis that better explains the observed facts than the currently held popular view.
Results: We propose a novel theory that atherosclerosis can best be explained as being due to cholesterol sulfate deficiency. Furthermore, atheromatous plaques replenish the supply of cholesterol and sulfate to the microvasculature, by exploiting the inflammatory agent superoxide to derive sulfate from homocysteine and other sulfur sources. We argue that the sulfate anions attached to the glycosaminoglycans in the glycocalyx are essential in maintaining the structured water that is crucial for vascular endothelial health and erythrocyte mobility through capillaries. Sulfate depletion leads to cholesterol accumulation in atheromas, because its transport through water-based media depends on sulfurylation. We show that streaming potential induces nitric oxide (NO) release, and NO derivatives break down the extracellular matrix, redistributing sulfate to the microvasculature. We argue that low (less negative) zeta potential due to insufficient sulfate anions leads to hypertension and thrombosis, because these responses can increase streaming potential and induce nitric-oxide mediated vascular relaxation, promoting oxygen delivery. Our hypothesis is a parsimonious explanation of multiple features of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Conclusions: If our interpretation is correct, then it would have a significant impact on how atherosclerosis is treated. We recommend a high intake of sulfur-containing foods as well as an avoidance of exposure to toxicants that may impair sulfate synthesis.