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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia and worldwide, and encompasses a group of disorders that effect the heart and blood vessels. The most common outcome relating to CVD are heart attacks and strokes, which occur due to a reduction of blood flow to the heart and brain, respectively. The majority of heart attacks and strokes occur because of atherosclerosis, a progressive, multi-factorial disease of the arteries characterised by the accumulation of cholesterol and inflammatory cells. The disease culminates in the rupture of unstable plaque, which can lead to blood clots, abrupt vessel occlusion and the loss of blood supply to these vital organs.

In recent years vascular inflammation has emerged as a key driver and therapeutic target for stroke and heart attack. Existing diagnostic techniques do not specifically target inflammation so that residual inflammatory risk remains untreated and undetected. Therefore, there is a clinical need to specifically identify patients with active vascular inflammation who may benefit from targeted treatment. Recent findings have demonstrated that myeloperoxidase (MPO), an inflammatory enzyme, is abundant in vulnerable and ruptured but not stable plaques, identifying MPO as a potentially ground-breaking diagnostic tool and therapeutic target.

This project will seek to further explore the utility of MPO in the identification of unstable atherosclerotic plaques. The initial aim is to confirm the link between MPO activity and ruptured human plaque before examining MPO’s role as a novel non-invasive imaging biomarker of vulnerable plaque.