The group seeks to understand how oxidants damage proteins, with particular emphasis on damage to the particles that carry bad cholesterol (LDL - low-density lipoprotein) in blood vessels, and the proteins that make up the scaffolding of the artery wall. A large part of the group's work centres on the chemical hypochlorite, which is a powerful oxidising agent. Most people are familiar with the anti-bacterial action of hypochlorite, as it is the main ingredient in household bleach. Interestingly, hypochlorite is also made by white blood cells in our body in a reaction that involves the enzyme myeloperoxidase. Hypochlorite is a major player in our immune defence system - killing invading bacteria and other disease causing pathogens. Usually the production of hypochlorite is closely controlled, but it can run wild causing damage to the body's own cells and structures.
A major goal of the group is to find out how hypochlorite and the enzyme myeloperoxidase, a protein associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease, damage the artery wall and how this might be prevented. The group is also striving to understand how chemical reactions associated with diabetes and the inflammatory condition systemic lupus, impact on the development of heart disease. Both of these conditions pre-dispose patients to an increased risk of dying from heart disease, though the processes by which this happens are not fully understood. The group also studies the role of metal ions in damage to the artery wall, which can trigger the process of atherosclerosis.
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