Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Research in our laboratory focuses on understanding how cells which line the blood vessels (endothelial cells), and cells, which help the blood to clot (platelets), differ in men and women and participate in development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), formation of unwanted blood clots in the legs (venous thrombosis), heart attack and stroke.
Our interdisciplinary team includes collaborators from the Departments of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering, Infectious Diseases, Surgery, Radiology and Internal Medicine (Divisions of Endocrinology, Cardiology, Hematology and Nephrology). Specific experiments are designed to study how sex hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, affect how blood vessels respond in men and women throughout their lives (for example at puberty, mid-life, and menopause).
One such study is the clinical trial Estrogen Replacement on Atherosclerosis Progression in Recently Menopausal Women:
The Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS) which will determine whether estrogen treatment to early menopausal women (ages 42-56) reduces progression of cardiovascular disease.
Other experiments examine how infections hasten development of atherosclerosis. An exciting aspect of this work is the identification of small, calcifying particles (nanoparticles) in human blood and arteries that are also found in geological specimens including meteorites from Mars. Close collaborations with the Department of Infectious Disease are essential for these experiments.
Changes in endothelial cells and platelets can lead to atherosclerosis and unwanted blood clots which cause heart attacks, strokes, and venous thrombosis. Increased understanding of what chemicals and hormones alter endothelial cells may lead to development of new therapies to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases.