cholesterol is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which
will affect half of all men and a third of all women at some time in
their lives. In Wisconsin, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause
of death, responsible for more than 16,000 deaths annually — and
that number could grow as obesity and hypertension are expected to
increase in Wisconsin.
A $2.5 million
research grant awarded to the Medical College of Wisconsin by the
National Institutes of Health may be the answer to detecting heart
disease sooner, thereby saving lives. Dr. Kirkwood A. Pritchard is the
principal investigator for the grant, which is funding research to
develop a more precise clinical test for predicting the risk of heart
disease by measuring the function of HDL or "good
cholesterol" in the body.
that there are two types of cholesterol — the LDL or so-called bad
cholesterol and the HDL or good cholesterol. We already have a test
that measures the level of HDL in the blood, but what we don’t have
is a good test that measures the HDL functions to prevent heart
disease," says Pritchard, professor of surgery, pharmacology and
toxicology and director of translational vascular biology program at
MCW and a member of the Children’s Research Institute at Children’s
Hospital of Wisconsin.
as a vacuum cleaner in the blood, picking up extra cholesterol from
the cells and tissues and taking it back to the liver, which either
uses it to make bile or recycles it," Pritchard says. This action
is thought to explain why high levels of HDL are associated with low
risk for heart disease. Knowing more about the functionality of HDL
can help doctors predict the possibility of heart disease, according
confident about the likelihood of developing this new blood test that
will help find the potential for heart disease earlier. The test could
be used on children as well as adults — anyone who has concerns
about their cholesterol. "Without a doubt, at the end of the
four-year grant we will be testing patient samples," he says.