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Targeting blood vessel cells to treat atherosclerosis

Centenary Institute & University of Sydney

  • Cardiovascular Early-Mid Career Researcher Grant
Organ System:
  • Cardiovascular
Date Funded:
  • 22 May, 2020
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Dr. Yanfei (Jacob) Qi

Project summary

Generating new understanding of the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis.

What is the issue for NSW?

Atherosclerosis is a chronic condition involving the hardening and narrowing of arteries, due to a build-up of fatty plaque on the arterial wall. It remains the most common cause of cardiovascular disease-related death worldwide.

Reducing blood cholesterol was considered a universal solution for preventing and treating atherosclerosis. However, a large number of individuals receive little cardiovascular benefit from cholesterol-lowering therapies. The old problem needs a new solution.

How atherosclerosis develops is far more complicated than initially thought. In addition to cholesterol and other risk factors in the blood, how blood vessels respond to the deleterious environment may also determine the outcome of the disease. The injury of blood vessels is considered one of the first step of atherosclerosis.

This injury induces chronic inflammatory phenotypes in the endothelium, the interior lining of blood vessels, and subsequently results in the inappropriate accumulation of inflammatory cells underneath the endothelium within the vessel walls. Prevention and reversal of vascular injury have great promise in treating atherosclerosis.

What does the research aim to do and how?

Dr Qi’s cutting-edge research has identified a critical regulator of both fat movement and storage within cells. His work has implicated this deleterious factor in vascular cell health, since it serves as a “catapult”, hurling unhealthy fat products within vascular cells and predisposing to a higher risk of vascular injury.

Dr Qi’s research is to explore how this fat regulator functions to control fat movement and storage, specifically in the endothelial cell lining of blood vessels, to uncover the mechanistic links between intracellular fat and vascular injury, and thus generate new understanding of the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis.

Further, he will test a new intervention targeting this deleterious factor in animal models, which will lay the foundation for the development of novel treatment options in combating atherosclerosis.