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Vascular Health Unit: A Translational Research Lab

Welcome to the Vascular Health Unit, a research lab dedicated to the identification of early markers of vascular impairment and maintenance of vascular health. Led by Dr. Stella S. Daskalopoulou and located at the Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre, our team focuses on cardiometabolic diseases, sex differences in cardiovascular diseases (CVD), women's health across the lifespan, and vascular disease prevention.

Experiment

About the Vascular Health Unit lab

At the Vascular Health Unit, we are dedicated to conducting cutting-edge translational research in the field of vascular health. Our team is composed of world-renowned researchers and clinicians who are committed to improving the health of individuals affected by cardiovascular diseases. We believe that early detection of vascular impairment and the maintenance of vascular health are crucial for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Our research focuses on cardiometabolic diseases, sex differences in cardiovascular diseases (CVD), women's health across the lifespan, and vascular disease prevention. We are also committed to training the next generation of researchers in the field of vascular health. Join us in our mission to improve the health of individuals affected by cardiovascular diseases.

Latest Publications

BACKGROUND:

Sex-specific differences in plaque composition and instability underscore the need to explore circulating markers for better prediction of high-risk plaques. This cross-sectional study aims to (1) investigate differences in lipid, immune, and adipokine circulating profiles between men and women with stable versus unstable plaques and (2) identify circulating markers that can better classify men and women according to plaque instability.

METHODS:

Preoperative blood samples and plaque specimens were collected from consecutive men and women with carotid artery stenosis ≥50% and who underwent a carotid endarterectomy between 2009 and 2018. Adipokine, lipid, and immune profiling was conducted. Plaque stability was determined by gold-standard histological classifications. Statistical analyses, including χ2, ANOVA, Kruskal–Wallis, and logistic regression, assessed differences in plaque features and blood parameters between men and women with stable and unstable plaques.

RESULTS:

Of 470 recruited patients (aged 70.8±9.2 years), the final study analyses included 317 men and 143 women (aged 71.0±9.0 years). Men exhibited more unstable plaques (P<0.001), characterized by increased plaque hemorrhage, larger lipid core, and inflammation (P<0.001), along with less favorable circulating profiles. Antagonistic interactions between sex and white blood cell (WBC) counts, basophil-to-WBC ratio, and platelet counts influenced plaque instability. In men, low WBC counts, high monocyte-to-WBC ratio, low basophil-to-WBC ratio, and high LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) levels were associated with greater plaque instability (odds ratio, 0.827 [95% CI, 0.713–0.926], 1.158 [95% CI, 1.027–1.305], 0.495 [95% CI, 0.281–0.871], and 1.564 [95% CI, 1.001–2.443], respectively) and more unstable features (ie, inflammation, foam cells, and neovascularization). In women, a high basophil-to-WBC ratio was associated with greater plaque instability (3.142 [95% CI, 1.220–8.093]), hemorrhage, and thrombosis, while a high molecular weight-to-total adiponectin ratio was associated with decreased instability (0.014 [95% CI, 0.000–0.646]) and inflammation.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our findings demonstrated sex-specific differences, with women displaying more stable plaque phenotypes and favorable circulating profiles compared with men. This proof-of-concept study was also designed as the key first step in exploring novel sex-specific associations between circulating lipid, immune, and adipokine profiles and carotid plaque instability.

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