ASU, Singapore scientists team up to fight cardio disease

Published On:
Friday, October 16, 2009
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cientists at ASU and overseas are joining forces against the No. 1 killer in the U.S.: cardiovascular disease.

Biodesign Institute research professor Randall W. Nelson is teaming up with Dr. Tai E-Shyong from Singapore’s National University Hospital to develop a way to spot heart attacks before they happen.

“In general, we’re looking at molecular diversity and specifically protein diversity in humans,” Nelson said.

The study, which is being conducted at ASU and in Singapore, is funded by Singapore’s National Medical Research Council.

Singapore researchers are conducting studies on population groups, Nelson said.

“We start with a high-probability cohort and monitor them over time,” he said, adding that by doing this, researchers can monitor how people change in the time leading up to a possible heart attack.

At ASU, Nelson and his team analyze actual patient samples to test the levels of various proteins.

“The traditional measurement is to look at high-density lipoprotein levels against low-density lipoprotein levels,” he said.

Nelson explained that the high-density levels are commonly referred to as “good cholesterol,” while low-density levels are seen as “bad cholesterol.”

A technology Nelson has helped develop at ASU over the past 20 years, however, helps scientists see the bigger picture.

Biochemistry graduate student Paul Oran, who works in Nelson’s lab, said the technology, called mass spectrometric immunoassay, allows researchers to recognize small differences in proteins.

“We’re going to introduce a next-generation diagnostic platform to the general public,” he said, explaining that this preventative-medicine technology could have positive consequences on the world of medicine.

Oran, who also works on analyzing proteins related to cancer and diabetes, said other labs are working on preventative medicine for these diseases, but ASU’s approach is unique.

“Our goal is to catch disease in its earliest stage,” he said.

Biodesign Institute spokesman Joe Caspermeyer said it is important to partner with other institutions like the National University of Singapore.

“We don’t have a medical school or clinic here, so it’s important for us to partner with many institutions around the world that tap into a rich patient sample pool for our studies,” he said.

Cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 killer in the U.S., Caspermeyer said, but ASU is discovering a new way to look at cholesterol levels that may significantly advance the way heart problems are diagnosed, he said.

“Dr. Nelson and his colleagues are able to ask the same questions, but in a different way,” he said.