The vulnerable plaque: makers and markers

Our program focuses on three important themes within the realm of plaque stability research:

1. genomics strategies to identify vulnerable plaque specific biomarkers and molecular imaging tools (headed by Biessen & Daemen);
2. co-stimulatory molecules in plaque stability (headed by Lutgens);
3. leukocyte dynamics in the advanced plaque (headed by Biessen).

The first topic combines conventional histopathology onhuman and mouse atherosclerotic tissue from a well defined human biobank with state of the art genomics and data processing technology to identify new pathways and keygenes relevant to disease progression and manifestation.

The second and third, rather immunology related, themes directly benefit from the spin-off of these genomics studies, in that the latter will reveal new mechanisms and actors inthe plaque destabilisation process. Experimental studies in mouse models, applying a range of pharmacological, genetic (transgenic and virus aided) as well as cell based intervention strategies help to dissect out whether and how a candidate pathway affects plaque stability. Cell fluxes to and from the atherosclerotic plaque are currently studied by histology, two photon microscopy and cell tracking approaches, while cell activation and differentiation are addressed ex vivo aswell as in situ.