Cardiovascular researcher wins prestigious young investigator’s award

Chi Young Shim, M.D., Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute, was awarded the prestigious 2014 Arthur E. Weyman Young Investigator’s Award at last week’s American Society of Echocardiography 25th Annual Scientific Sessions.

Dr. Shim in the lab

Dr. Shim presented the results of a study which used molecular imaging with “smart” targeted microbubbles to detect the sticking of platelets to the vessel wall at various stages of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries due to plaque build-up, can lead to many serious health problems, including stroke and coronary heart disease, which is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.

“It is well known that platelets play a role in forming large clots that block arteries in stroke and heart attack. Our study opens up a whole new perspective on how platelets play a role in provoking the earlier initiation and growth of atherosclerotic plaques,” said Dr. Shim.

Jonathan Lindner, M.D., the senior investigator of the study adds, “It has been suspected that platelet adhesion to the inner lining of blood vessels, even temporarily, can result in the deposition of harmful chemicals that can promote plaque growth and instability. This study is the first to definitively show that this process happens in the early stages of the disease. We also used smart microbubbles to evaluate the mechanism that causes them to stick, which involves oxidative stress and the abnormal production of molecules on the plaque surface that snag platelets from the circulating blood. These results are important because they now give us a possible therapeutic target for new therapies.”

Researchers on the study, “Platelet Attachment to Vascular Endothelium Occurs in Both Early and Late-Stage Atherosclerosis Secondary to Dysregulation of Von Willebrand Factor: Evaluation by Contrast Ultrasound Molecular Imaging, included Chi Young Shim, Ya Ni Liu, Tami Atkinson, Mackenzie Treible, Aris Xie, Yue Qi, Ted Foster, Todd Belcik and Jonathan Lindner from the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute.