Versiti Blood Research Institute Articles
Groundbreaking Versiti Blood Research Institute discovery paves the way for new treatments for heart attack, stroke
Associate Investigator Ze Zheng, MBBS, PhD, was recently published in the prestigious journal Science for her study of how a blood protein breaks down blood clots and lowers lipid levels.
Most Americans are no strangers to the dangers of atherosclerosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., with nearly 700,000 Americans dying from it each year. In the early stages of heart disease, lipids, or fats, build up in the bloodstream, narrowing the path through which blood flows and creating the perfect environment for blood clots to develop.
In healthy individuals, a protein called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) steps in to break down these clots, a process called fibrinolysis. Versiti Blood Research Institute Associate Investigator Ze Zheng, MBBS, PhD, studies fibrinolysis and how an imbalance between the formation of clots and their breakdown can have adverse effects on human health. “This includes people with pathological blood clots, including diseases like heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism,” she said.
A key area of her research is tPA’s function and how it removes excess clotting restoring blood flow. Her early research defined a new cellular source of tPA, but she was also interested in exploring tPA’s influence on cholesterol levels in the blood. Her research team was recently published in the prestigious journal Science for their discovery that not only does tPA help to break down blood clots, but it also helps to lower lipid levels in the blood, making it a new therapeutic target.
“We are investigating therapeutic strategies based on these findings … that may be able to reduce the residual cardiovascular risk that has persisted even as treatment has advanced,” Dr. Zheng told the Medical College of Wisconsin.
About the expert: Ze Zheng, MBBS, PhD, is an associate investigator at Versiti Blood Research Institute; an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Molecular Medicine, the Department of Medicine, and the Department of Physiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin; and a co-leader of the ATVB Program, Cardiovascular Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin.