University of Louisville cardiologist Andrew DeFilippis, M.D., MSc, was awarded a $100,000 Heart to Heart Grant from the Alpha Phi Foundation to study cardiovascular disease and identify a potential new biomarker to determine those at higher risk for a serious heart-related event. If successful, the research may make a difference in the fight against the leading cause of death among women worldwide.
Although the incidence of death from heart disease has been decreasing in men since the 1970s, the same trend has not observed in women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in the United Sates, accounting for one in every four deaths in women.
Despite the burden of cardiovascular events in morbidity and mortality, only 54 percent of women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 cause of mortality, according to data from 2010. Nearly 64 percent of women who die of a cardiovascular event showed no prior symptoms, which emphasizes the importance of defining biomarkers for risk assessment.
Currently, risk assessment tools focus on factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking, which, despite correctly assessing a person’s predisposition for cardiovascular disease, do not confirm the presence of atherosclerotic plaques, build-ups of fat, and other components that clog arteries and lead to heart attack and stroke.
DeFilippis’ research project focuses on oxidized phospholipids (OxPL), components of atherosclerotic plaques that researchers believe may help doctors identify and risk stratify patients, by tracking and measuring OxPL release into the bloodstream.
To test this theory, the research team from the University of Louisville’s Institute of Molecular Cardiology will evaluate blood samples and data collected in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) trial, a study on cardiovascular disease that enrolled 6,814 men and women in six cities in the United States.
The study began in 2000 with several blood sample collections and health monitoring continued for up to a decade. Using this data, researchers will evaluate if OxPL represents a functional and accurate biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk.
“If our project confirms OxPL as a biomarker of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, it opens the possibility of the development of a totally new class of medications for the treatment of cardiovascular disease years before the onset of an acute event,” DeFilippis said in a news release.