Study finds new predictor of heart disease in African-Americans

May 20, 2010

UC Davis researchers have discovered that a blood component linked with inflammation can predict coronary artery disease in African-Americans.

Known as lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2), the blood factor is also associated with but does not accurately predict heart-disease risk in Caucasians. The findings are published in the current issue of the .

"This study suggests that inflammation may be a more important mechanism in heart disease for African-Americans than it is for Caucasians and increases our growing understanding of how heart-disease processes vary in different ethnic groups," said Lars Berglund, senior study author and associate dean for research at the UC Davis School of Medicine. "The more we appreciate such differences, the better we can individualize treatment and prevention approaches."

Lp-PLA2 was recently identified as a marker for the inflammatory processes involved in atherosclerosis. It is considered key to the progression and rupture of fatty plaques that can block coronary arteries and lead to heart attacks. It predominately binds to low-density lipoprotein — or LDL — which is a general marker of increased heart-disease risk. Berglund noted, though, that more well-known factors like LDL and high cholesterol cannot provide the whole picture of heart disease.

"There are other important elements of heart disease — like inflammation — that need to be better explained," he said.

For the current study, Berglund and his team measured Lp-PLA2 levels in the blood of 336 Caucasians and 224 African-Americans who were about to undergo diagnostic coronary arteriography — a test used to determine in high-risk patients — at two hospitals in New York. Coronary arteriography findings were compared with the amount and activity levels of Lp-PLA2 from each research subject.

During the procedure, contrast dye and X-rays are used to detect narrowed or blocked arteries, indicating the potential for heart attacks.

"Arteriography is highly effective but considered too risky and expensive for general screening," said Berglund. "That is why researchers are always on the lookout for other reliable predictors of heart-attack risk that can be identified with a simple blood test."

The outcomes showed that Lp-PLA2 activity was higher among Caucasians and African-Americans with coronary artery disease. In addition, only in African-Americans was the Lp-PLA2 index found to independently predict disease.

Although the test for Lp-PLA2 is widely available, Berglund said it is too soon to recommend widespread testing to affect treatment decisions. The study population was not representative of the general population as all participants already had symptoms of heart disease. Berglund's team plans further studies of Lp-PLA2 and other inflammatory components of the blood in a wider range of patients to get a clearer picture of their roles in predicting heart disease for different ethnic and racial groups. The outcomes of his current study, however, give him hope that African-Americans at high risk for will one day be treated for inflammation more aggressively and earlier in the disease process.

"This study has helped open the field," said Berglund. "More information will allow us to better tailor therapy to specific patient needs."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

October 19, 2017
Researchers at the University of Tübingen have become the first to keep human brain tissue alive outside the body for several weeks. The researchers, headed by Dr. Niklas Schwarz, Dr. Henner Koch and Dr. Thomas Wuttke at ...

Cancer drug found to offer promising results in treating sepsis in test mice

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A combined team of researchers from China and the U.S. has found that a drug commonly used to treat lung cancer in humans offers a degree of protection against sepsis in test mice. In their paper published ...

Tracing cell death pathway points to drug targets for brain damage, kidney injury, asthma

October 19, 2017
University of Pittsburgh scientists are unlocking the complexities of a recently discovered cell death process that plays a key role in health and disease, and new findings link their discovery to asthma, kidney injury and ...

Study reveals key molecular link in major cell growth pathway

October 19, 2017
A team of scientists led by Whitehead Institute has uncovered a surprising molecular link that connects how cells regulate growth with how they sense and make available the nutrients required for growth. Their work, which ...

Inflammation trains the skin to heal faster

October 18, 2017
Scars may fade, but the skin remembers. New research from The Rockefeller University reveals that wounds or other harmful, inflammation-provoking experiences impart long-lasting memories to stem cells residing in the skin, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.