16” x 20”

CHARCOAL ON PAPER

Atherosclerosis:

The Killer Within

USAMA TAHIR, Artist

Science, Undergraduate

BERNARDO TRIGATTI, Ph.D.Researcher

Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) remain the leading cause of hospitalization in Canada, costing our economy an average of $20.9 billion per year. Statistically speaking, that’s more than 350 000 people hospitalized per year for heart disease alone! Despite knowing that atherosclerosis leads to the development of CVD through the accumulation of plaques and the subsequent narrowing of the arteries, we are only beginning to understand the mechanisms associated with its formation and progression. The importance of understanding atherosclerotic plaques is evident from that fact that the majority of the drugs on the market today only manage CVD through regulating external factors in the body i.e. Statins being used to reduce cholesterol metabolism. Hence, deciphering this complex mechanism is crucial towards identifying better therapeutic targets that might directly influence atherosclerotic plaques.

To further the understanding of atherosclerotic plaques, the Trigatti Lab utilizes mouse molecular genetics to aid in their investigation of cardiovascular disease. These mice are genetically modified to introduce specific mutations in their genomes i.e. Deleting the sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 1 (S1PR1) in macrophages. The mice are then raised on a high-fat diet to mimic the process of high cholesterol in human blood and later harvested for their organs. Plaque accumulation is quantified by measuring the size of plaques in the aorta and the aortic sinus, a region near the semilunar values of the heart. The data obtained is used to understand how different receptors can be modified to help reverse the process of plaque formation.