Wednesday, 18th July 2012
Biomedical researchers at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) in collaboration with clinicians at Waterford Regional Hospital (WRH) are conducting research into cardiovascular disease and are evaluating how the disease can be predicted from a blood test.
WIT researchers, Dr John Phelan and Mr Antony Wakesa analyse samples from subjects using an
FC 500 flow cytometer.
Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term for those diseases (e.g. carotid artery disease or atherosclerosis) where arteries become narrowed and restricted due to fatty deposits and plaque accumulation. This leads to arterial thickening and reduced blood flow affecting many organs of the body. Diets rich in fatty and processed foods, sedentary lifestyles and smoking are all contributory factors to the disease. Such lifestyles inevitably lead to detrimental great physical burdens on the body, not to mention a fiscal impact on health services and amenities.
WIT researchers are investigating blood borne substances called microparticles which could have predictive values as indicators of cardiovascular disease. When cells of the body are stressed, these tiny particles break away from injured cells and travel through the circulatory system carrying a host of signalling molecules. The aim of this study is to characterise these signalling molecules in order to quantify and qualify these microparticles as predictors of cardiovascular disease.
To carry out this study two groups were recruited; patients and controls. The patient group was recruited by Mr Antony Wekesa, PhD student, in consultation with Mr Simon Cross, co-principal investigator and consultant vascular surgeon at WRH. These patients were diagnosed with carotid artery disease using ultrasound of the carotid artery in the neck. This artery supplies oxygenated blood from the heart to the brain and when blocked can cause stroke. The control group, recruited by Mr Wakesa and Dr John Phelan, biomedical research coordinator at WIT, was an age matched healthy group with no history of cardiovascular disease. Both groups underwent an informed consenting process conforming to WIT and WRH ethical regulations, ensuring complete anonymity and confidentiality.
Dr Phelan said "With respect to the control group, our remit was very specific, we sought healthy people aged 73 and over presenting with no history of cardiovascular disease and the interest was extraordinary. Thanks to the local press and word of mouth, 46 individuals donated blood and underwent carotid artery scans. It is heartening to see people in their 70s and 80s from the Waterford region are living active and healthy lives as most individuals had clear arteries. We are extremely grateful to those who took the time and effort to help us with our research".
While this research is still ongoing, it is hoped that results from the study could promote microparticles as important predictors of cardiovascular disease. As Dr Michael Harrison, co-principal investigator put it "This research is preliminary but it could have exciting implications whereby a simple blood test could lead to the rapid diagnosis and prompt adjuvant therapy for an individual with cardiovascular disease".
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