Happens In Blood Vessels BEFORE Heart Disease Is Evident?
Emory Researchers Search For Early Changes
hypertension, stress, excess weight, smoking and lack of exercise ---
scientists know these are all risk factors that play important roles
in the development of heart disease. But what actually happens inside
blood vessels at the very beginning of atherosclerosis ( the buildup
of fatty plaques within arteries that can partially or completely block
blood flow, leading to heart attack and stroke) ?
Emory Heart Center researchers
are conducting the MOST (Markers of Oxidative Stress) study to help
find out. Emory cardiologists David Harrison, MD, principal investigator
of the Emory-based MOST study, and William Weintraub, MD, co-investigator,
believe markers of oxidative stress and inflammation could hold the
key to understanding early vascular changes linked to atherosclerosis.
Oxidative stress is a condition where our blood vessels begin to make
too many free radicals, overcoming the natural protective factors in
"In recent years, we have
recognized that oxidative stress is an important factor in the development
of atherosclerosis and heart disease," says Dr. Harrison. "Oxidation
leads to depletion of important nutrients in our blood vessel, leading
to atherosclerotic plaque formation. Oxidation reactions cause blood
levels of certain substances to be elevated. The MOST study will help
us identify how those substances correlate with artherosclerosis that
isn't yet clinically evident."
Some of the markers that
are being studied include blood levels of glutathione, antibodies against
oxidized LDL, cholesterol and homocysteine. Levels of C-reactive protein
are also being measured. The results to date suggest that levels of
these markers may be used to indicate oxidative stress and inflammation
are taking place in the body.
This information will be
correlated along with information on study participants' activity levels,
diets, stress levels and percentage of body fat. Then the data will
be compared to ultrasound measurements of the volunteers' carotid and
brachial arteries which will show signs of thickening if early atherosclerotic
plaques are present.
"The MOST study can help
us understand the most basic causes of atherosclerosis and, most importantly,
it could eventually allow us to start treatment before any disease is
clinically evident," says Dr. Harrison.
Physicians who have patients
interested in participating as research subjects in the MOST study,
can call Steven Rhodes, RN Research Coordinator, at (404) 712-8832 for