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Collaborative Success Stories: Leaders of the Plaque


University of Missouri researchers have discovered a potential key for preventing plaque-related heart attacks and stroke.

As humans grow older, arterial plaque is more likely to build up within their blood vessels. If the amount becomes excessive, serious complications such as stroke and cardiac arrest could arise. White blood cells called macrophages work to remove plaque, but the macrophages become less effective as individuals age.

Now, MU researchers Yusuke Higashi and Patrice Delafontaine have discovered that a protein called IGF-1 – found in high levels among adolescents – could boost macrophages’ plaque-clearing power, helping prevent arteries from clogging.

By studying mice whose diets were high in fat, the scientists determined that those with higher levels of IGF-1 had significantly lower levels of plaque. They are now working to understand exactly how IGF-1 affects macrophages. The researchers’ next step is examining how IGF-1 works in larger animals with high-fat diets. The results will be important in advancing treatments for patients at risk for heart attack and stroke due to excessive plaque.

Dr. Yusuke Higashi is an assistant research professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the MU School of Medicine, and Dr. Patrice Delafontaine is the Hugh E. and Sarah D. Stephenson Dean of the MU School of Medicine and Professor of Medicine and Medical Pharmacology and Physiology.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine