Circulating markers of coronary disease- haptoglobin and related molecules.
Current biomarkers of atherosclerosis are non-specific. We had previously found that the protein haptoglobin was released from diseased human coronary arteries, and are currently investigating whether qualitative changes of haptoglobin may be indicators of arterial pathology. Our group has found that there are subtle but consistent modifications of haptoglobin which appear to identify the presence of severe coronary disease. We are currently investigating the nature of these modifications in the hope of identifying a specific and novel marker of coronary disease.
We have recently shown that the arteries of children who are mildly to moderately overweight have early structural and functional evidence of damage, and investigated the reversibility of this. We've shown that sustained diet and exercise can help reverse these changes, over a 12-month period.
We are now trying to examine the mechanisms of damage whereby obesity leads to heart and vascular problems, and to define the best kinds of diet and exercise to help reverse these problems.
For many years it has been known that men have more severe heart disease than women, at an earlier age. This was initially thought to be due to a protective effect of the female sex hormones like estrogens, but recent research has cast doubt on this theory. We have therefore been investigating whether the male sex hormones, androgens, might provoke the key early events in atherosclerosis and heart disease. Our preliminary results do indeed show that androgens have adverse effects on important processes, like white cell stickiness to the vessel wall and the uptake of fats by the vessel wall. We're now exploring the mechanisms behind these, with a view to developing treatments for prevention of heart disease.
Whereas South Asians living in India seem protected from heart disease, progressive westernisation and especially migration to areas of high heart disease prevalence (like Australia) seems to lead to an enormous increase in the risk of heart disease amongst South Asian Indian populations. In collaboration with the George Institute, we have now set up a primary prevention program in rural India and importantly are looking to understand the pathogenesis of the accelerated heart disease in westernised and urbanised Indians, living in Australia.
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