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Research will address women’s increased risk for cardiovascular disease

March 27, 2019

Dr. Halvor McGee is an Assistant Professor at the Creighton University School of Medicine. He is currently researching how bacteria and viruses contribute to the disease atherosclerosis.

Patients with this disease suffer from hardened arteries, which causes the formation of plaque within the arteries.

McGee will study the plaques found in the carotid and femoral arteries. Carotid arteries are those found on the left and right side of the neck, while femoral arteries are found in the thighs. Plaques can be found in both types of these blood vessels.

To complete this research project, his goal is to collect 30 arteries from Live On Nebraska for observation.

He will collect 120 plaque samples from patients with atherosclerosis who have undergone surgery to remove the plaque from their carotid artery, which can cause a mini- or major stroke if the arteries rupture.

Of the 120 samples, 60 will come from patients who are asymptomatic — patients who never had a stroke or temporary blindness but did see medical professionals for fatigue, high blood pressure, or patients who needed plaque removed.

These observations will then need to be compared to a control group. It would be impossible to look at carotid arteries because people need them in their bodies to survive, so McGee will obtain 30 samples of iliac arteries from Live On Nebraska.

The internal iliac artery provides blood to the leg, while the external iliac provides blood to the bladder, and prostate in men or uterus in women. The iliac is located on the right and left side of the body.

This artery was chosen for observation and comparison as a control because it is the artery that most closely mimics the carotid artery and has a similar amount of blood pressure flow and structure, McGee said.

Importantly, 15 of these samples will be from male donors, while the other half will come from female donors. This will hopefully provide insight into the increased risk women have for cardiovascular disease.

Soon, McGee said he also wants to collect samples from minority donors because the risk for cardiovascular disease is two to three times more likely in minority populations compared to Caucasians.

Ultimately, McGee’s goal for this study is to find preventative strategies and approaches to give a person a longer life or a better quality of life, perhaps through a probiotic that could slow the progression of cardiovascular disease.

This is part three of an eight-part series outlining the ways organ and tissue donors from Nebraska benefit many through research projects. Look for next week’s contribution discussing the second project that gives insight into lung disease.

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