Atherosclerosis is a severe disease of the feeding arteries, responsible for heart attack and stroke. The disease is initiated by accumulation of fatty deposits in the artery wall. This leads to the stimulation of our defences through the activation of the white blood cells.
In this project, we aim to discover which set of white blood cells is responsible for damaging the artery wall and how this alters tissue response to injury. Knowing this will enable us to design new treatments that stimulate the cells that protect our arteries without stimulating the damaging ones. If we can do this we may be able to develop a ‘vaccine’ against atherosclerosis, which could reduce the burden of heart attacks and strokes.
The research will involve a combination of tissue culture to understand cell-cell communication and genetically-modified mice to mimic human disease and to test potential new medicines. Animals are necessary to reproduce the complex network involved in atherosclerosis and aneurysm formation. However, the number of animals will be minimised by careful experimental design based on extensive previous experience in the models and using appropriate statistical analyses.