Vascular Biology Research Centre

Lab head: Dr Heather Medbury
Location: Surgery, Westmead Hospital, Rm 3020 REN building

Lab members: Supervisors: Heather Medbury (Senior Scientist) Helen Williams (post doc)

Redefining the role of monocytes and macrophages in vascular disease.

Primary supervisor: Heather Medbury

The fact that heart attack and stroke continue to claim countless lives highlights an urgent need to develop alternative strategies for treatment of atherosclerosis. In particular, strategies that address the key cause of clinical events - plaque rupture. With rupture more likely to occur in unstable atherosclerotic plaques (ones with a relatively thin fibrous cap and large fatty core), the therapeutic goal is to convert unstable plaques to stable plaques. A key contributor to plaque instability is the macrophage. Its transformation into foam cells leads to formation of the fatty core and its production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) leads to thinning of the fibrous cap.  

However, we have found that alternative (M2) macrophages produce collagen in the lesion. If the balance of macrophage subsets in the plaque could be modulated, it may be possible to stabilize the disease. Macrophages are monocyte derived and our preliminary work assessing monocyte cell surface marker expression, suggests that their profile is also altered in atherosclerosis.

The student will join us in our studies to redefine the role of monocytes and macrophages in vascular disease, assessing cell plasticity and function with a variety of assays including cell culture, flow cytometry and immunocytochemistry.  

Discipline: Pathology
Keywords: Inflammation, Atherosclerosis, Macrophages