The unrecognized importance of smooth muscle foam cells in atherosclerosis development and treatment
Recent results in our laboratory have demonstrated that a large portion of the cholesterol-overloaded cells, known as foam cells, found in the human coronary artery atherosclerotic intima are smooth muscle cell-derived rather than of white blood cell origin, and that in advanced lesions the main cholesterol exporter protein is expressed in a lower level in smooth muscle cells than in macrophages, meaning that smooth muscle cells can take up the cholesterol but have a reduced ability to release it, when compared to macrophages. We would like to quantitate the proportion of smooth muscle cells and blood origin (macrophage) foam cells in human coronary arteries in a more sensitive manner using Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting (FACS). We will also test whether the proportion of smooth muscle cell versus white blood cell-derived foam cells in individual patient samples correlates with patients use of medications, including statin therapy.
Hypothesis: Patients who were on statin therapy prior to the time of heart transplant will have a higher ratio of smooth muscle cell foam cells to macrophage foam cells compared to patients that were not on statin therapy.