Hardened arteries no match for ‘Good Cholesterol’

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  Last updated May 29, 2018 at 12:12 pm


Atherosclerosis, a common disease in which plaque build-up obstructs normal arterial flow, continues to be a leading cause of coronary heart disease, the biggest killer of Australian men and women to date.

At SAHMRI, Dr Christina Bursill is exploring the effects of high density lipoprotein (HDL), or ‘Good Cholesterol’, on preventing vascular inflammation and the development of heart disease.

“Hardened, narrow arteries restrict blood and oxygen flow to the heart. Our most recent research explores the differences between new and older atherosclerotic plaques inside vessels, and how they respond differently to treatment with HDL. We are learning how and why this is different, and how this may help us develop new therapeutics to treat atherosclerosis and heart disease.”

For Dr Bursill, research into atherosclerosis and related heart conditions has been a key interest for almost 20 years.

Stent biocompatibility is at the forefront of one of her latest research projects, involving the examination of how to improve the body’s response to stent placement within an artery blocked with lipid.

“We know that cardiovascular disease has such a detrimental impact for the Australian population, so it’s no wonder that so many people have had surgery for stent insertion into blocked arteries,’ says Dr Bursill. But there can be challenges with this application because it can cause further inflammation and re-blockage, as well as lead to blood clots (thrombosis). We’ve been studying how we can create a stent that is more biocompatible with the body and therefore prevent complications.”

Having delivered exciting pre-clinical results, the team are set to start human trials of topical HDL to heal foot ulcers in diabetic patients later this year. If successful, this could greatly reduce further deterioration and the probability of limb amputation.

Dr Bursill is the leader of the Plaque Biology and New Blood Vessel Area within SAHMRI’s Heart Health theme and Senior Research Fellow at The University of Adelaide, Department of Health and Medical Science.

About the Author

Alayna Hansen
A freelance science writer based in Melbourne, Australia. I've been curious about science and the natural world for as long as I've been able to talk the leg off an iron pot. If you can't find me at a zoo, observatory, or running around with a microphone, I'm probably imitating David Attenborough documentaries again.

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