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Atherosclerosis and Vascular Biology

Atherosclerosis is a hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques within the vessel wall. These plaques encroach on the arterial lumen, interfering with blood flow and in acute events can rupture, blocking blood flow completely. Atherosclerosis is the underlying disease leading to a wide variety of cardiovascular related illnesses and can lead to clinical outcomes such as heart attacks or strokes when rupture occurs.

Macrophages are inflammatory cells that play an important role in the initiation and the progression of the atherosclerotic plaque. Within a lesion, macrophages take up large amounts of cholesterol rendering them macrophage foam cells. These foams cells can be highly inflammatory and exacerbate lesion formation.

In the Atherosclerosis Laboratory we use various cell and animal models to study macrophage foam cells, particularly:

  • Mechanisms related to cholesterol accumulation and excretion of cholesterol from macrophage foam cells
  • Regulatory pathways of factors secreted from macrophage foam cells
  • Characterization of glycosylation of anti-atherogenic apolipoprotein E
  • Cleavage of anti-atherogenic factors by macrophages
  • Atherosclerotic side effects of the immunosuppressant drug Cyclosporin A
  • Role of SMPDL3A in inflammatory diseases

Vascular Biology

In 2016, the leading cause of death in Australia and World-Wide was rielle Pennings, Dr ischaemic heart disease. This results from insufficient blood supply to the heart generally due to blocked arteries around the heart (coronary arteries), which can cause angina (chest pain), heart attack, and death.
Research within the Vascular Biology Group incorporates a mixture of basic and clinical science aimed at understanding, preventing and treating heart disease and its complications. Areas of interest include:

  • Thrombosis and inflammation in cardiovascular disease
  • Extracellular vesicles in thrombosis and inflammation
  • Novel non-invasive intervention techniques to reduce future cardiovascular events
  • Age effects on platelet responsiveness

Our Research Team

Professor Leonard Kritharides Head of Department
Dr Maaike Kockx Researcher
Dr Jeffrey Wang Researcher
Dr Gabrielle Pennings Researcher
Dr Caroline Reddel Researcher
Echo Yao Researcher

Our Research Projects

DL function and dysfunction in at risk populations
M Kockx, J Wang, X Yao, L Kritharides

SRB1-mediated uptake capacity in humans
M Bolek, M Kockx, X Yao, L Kritharides

Lipid abnormalities in patients with serious mental illness
J Wang, M Kockx, X Yao, L Kritharides

Mechanisms of Platelet IL-1 beta Release
G Pennings, C Reddel, M Lam, M Kockx, V Chen, L Kritharides

The Effect of Colchicine on Platelet Inflammation – in vitro studies
G Pennings, C Reddel, S Gnanenthiran, L Kritharides

The Effect of Colchicine on Platelet Function in the Elderly - in vivo studies
S Gnanenthiran, G Pennings, C Reddel, V Chen, L Kritharides

Platelet microparticles/extracellular vesicles and their role in coagulation and fibrinolysis
C Reddel, G Pennings, V Chen, L Kritharides

The effect of aging on platelet activation pathways
S Gnanenthiran, G Pennings, C Reddel, H Campbell, M Kockx, V Chen, L Kritharides

Selected Grants

Amount awarded Grant and project details
$18,000 THANZ Education Grants-In-Aid- Project, 2023
“Mechanism/s of acute IL-1/3 release from platelets”
Investigators: Pennings
$1,003,000 

MRFF- TTRA for ASHRA, 2022-25
“Multi-omic signatures of CVD in Aboriginal Australians (OSCA)”
Investigators: Brown, Breen, Pederson, McBride, Howard, Kritharides, Maple-Brown, Barr, Nicholls, Kovacic.