Through life-saving gifts from generous blood donors, BloodCenter of Wisconsin is known for delivering a safe and stable supply of blood and blood products for patients in need. But as a pioneering leader in science and medicine, BloodCenter also specializes in diagnostic testing, medical services and leading-edge basic and clinical research.
For nearly 70 years, BloodCenter has made scientific breakthroughs to address some of the world’s top health problems. Today, investigators at BloodCenter’s Blood Research Institute are making significant discoveries related to the causes of blood clots that develop in patients with atherosclerosis, or hardening and narrowing of the arteries.
Atherosclerosis is a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside your arteries. It triggers excessive blood clotting mainly in the arteries and veins of the heart and brain, and often is the cause of heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular disease. Together, these make up cardiovascular disease — the No. 1 killer in America, representing approximately 30% of deaths.
Many individuals attempt to counter the effects of atherosclerosis through lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy diet, not smoking and being physically active. However, atherosclerosis remains a common health problem.
BloodCenter researcher provides hope for patients
BloodCenter Senior Investigator Alan Mast, M.D., Ph.D., was honored recently by the American Heart Association’s Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB) for his work to improve outcomes for patients who develop blood clots with atherosclerosis. As the recipient of the 2015 Jeffrey M. Hoeg ATVB Award for Basic Science and Clinical Research, Dr. Mast is recognized for his work to further understanding of the biochemistry of blood clotting related to atherosclerosis, which may lead to the development of new treatment strategies for its prevention.
Dr. Mast’s research focuses on the function of an anticoagulant protein that prevents blood clots called Tissue Factor Pathway Inhibitors (TFPI). Dr. Mast, along with other scientists in his laboratory, have identified a previously unrecognized function of TFPI that anticoagulates blood. It does this by blocking a step that occurs very early in the formation of a blood clot. This process appears to be mediated by forms of TFPI produced by platelets, which are important cells that produce the blood clots in patients with atherosclerosis.
According to Tom Abshire, M.D., chief medical officer at BloodCenter, “Dr. Mast’s lifelong dedication to the reasons underlying blood clotting sets him apart as a leader whose basic scientific discoveries may reduce or even prevent occurences of heart attack and stroke in patients who suffer from atherosclerosis.”
Dr. Mast’s important work is providing hope for the millions of people who are living with this dangerous disease.