WORCESTER, Mass. A Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) research team has received a four-year, $1.4 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue a groundbreaking study of arterial plaque. This research could lead to tools that will enable physicians to predict the likelihood of plaque rupture, which is responsible for most heart attacks and strokes. Led by Dalin Tang, PhD, professor of mathematical sciences and biomedical engineering at WPI, the team is collaborating with researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Washington in Seattle on the research, which combines sophisticated computer modeling with an array of diagnostic technologies to more accurately chart the development of atherosclerotic plaque (fatty deposits) in the coronary arteries.
Arterial plaques are complex structures made up of cholesterol and other fats, calcium, fibrin (a protein that helps blood clot), and other materials. When they reach an advanced stage, plaques may develop a thin, membranous or fibrous cap. When this is torn open, it releases the contents of the plaque into the bloodstream. Plaque rupture causes some 60 percent of sudden, unexpected heart attacks. While the link between plaque build-up and cardiovascular disease has long been recognized, the factors that cause plaques to form, grow and rupture have been less clearly understood.
Better understanding the evolution of arterial plaque is important, Tang says, given the central role it plays in cardiovascular disease. As plaque deposits grow they cause a narrowing of arteries (called stenosis), which diminishes the amount of oxygen and nutrients blood can carry to the body and puts increasing stress on the heart. When plaques rupture, a blood clot (thrombosis) typically forms at the site and may block the artery. Such a blockage in a coronary artery leading to the heart is called a myocardial infarction or a heart attack. A similar blockage of t
|Contact: Michael Dorsey|
Worcester Polytechnic Institute