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Atherosclerotic plaques formed during a late and limited time period in life
Date:4/8/2011

In a new study performed in humans, researchers from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet have determined the age of atherosclerotic plaques by taking advantage of Carbon-14 (14C) residues in the atmosphere, prevailing after the extensive atomic bomb tests in the 50ties and 60ties. The findings, published in the scientific online journal PLoS ONE, suggest that in most people plaque formation occurs during a relatively short and late time period in life of 3-5 years.

The investigators collected carotid plaques during carotid stenosis surgery at the Stockholm South General Hospital (Sdersjukhuset). The patients were admitted for surgery since their carotid lesions partly obstructed the blood flow to the brain, causing symptoms of insufficient oxygen called Trans Ischemic Attacks (TIA) that in some cases also had lead to strokes.

The plaques were carbon dated at Uppsala University, by using Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS). As a result of the extensive atomic bomb test in the 50-ties and 60-ties, the atmospheric concentration of 14C rapidly increased. Since then the concentration of 14C is declining, which now can be used to determine the time of synthesis of any biological sample.

"We suspected that the plaque would be substantially younger than the patients, who were on average were 68 years old at surgery, but we were surprised when we found that the average age of these plaques was less than 10 years," says Associate Professor Johan Bjrkegren, who lead the study at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics.

Another striking finding was that the variation of plaque age was low, suggesting that in most people plaque formation occurs during a relative short and late time span in life (3-5 years). If proven true, the growth of atherosclerotic lesions may be interrupted to prevent clinical manifestation, like TIA and stroke, even in late stages of life, at 60 years of age or possibly later.

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Contact: Katarina Sternudd
katarina.sternudd@ki.se
46-852-483-895
Karolinska Institutet
Source:Eurekalert

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