LBL and Sequoia Hospital Collaborate on Research into Heart Disease

October 30, 1992

By Art Tressler

A unique collaboration on research into heart disease was initiated earlier this week between LBL and Sequoia Hospital District in Redwood City. A Cholesterol Research Center has been established at Sequoia Hospital to enable the application lipoprotein analysis techniques -- developed at LBL's Cholesterol Research Center -- to Sequoia's cardiovascular patients.

This is the first time a major, community based, cardiology diagnosis and treatment facility has joined forces with a major cholesterol research program.

LBL will perform the analyses under a five-year, $2 million contract with Sequoia, which will also provide special equipment for the research.

The lipoprotein analyses of studies involving Sequoia patients will be directed by Ronald Krauss, who heads LBL's Department of Molecular and Nuclear Medicine. Clinical research and applications at Sequoia will be directed by Dr. H. Robert Superko.

Says Krauss, "This collaboration will raise us to the next level of progress in solving the problems of heart disease. It will, for the first time, bring together on a large scale the research and clinical expertise required to develop tools that will help physicians in diagnosis and management of patients at risk for heart disease.

"It promises to be an outstanding example of technology transfer in medical science."

Lipoproteins have long been implicated in the development of atherosclerosis -- the build-up of fatty deposits on artery walls. Researchers believe that formation depends on the ratio of "good" lipids -- high-density lipoproteins, or HDL -- to "bad" ones -- low-density lipoproteins, or LDL. Analysis of these ratios, along with measurement of triglycerides and overall cholesterol levels, form profiles that physicians can use to single out high-risk patients and advise them on diet, drugs, and changes in life style.

LBL's Cholesterol Research Center was established in 1988 to conduct research into the underlying causes and potential treatments of heart disease. In the early 1980s, Krauss and co-workers conducted biomedical, genetic, and epidemiologic studies that indicated that a single gene may carry a tendency towards the development of heart disease. Discovery of this gene was announced late last year. Scientists at LBL and Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute found the gene on chromosome19. It has been designated ATHS (ATHerosclerosis Susceptibility). The effects of this gene are being studied using detailed biochemical, metabolic, and genetic analyses which will be supported by the LBL-Sequoia collaboration.

Commenting on the collaboration, Superko said: "This new collaboration is a unique opportunity to combine the excellent patient-care services at Sequoia Hospital and the world-class science and laboratory service at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. I am quite excited that this collaboration will allow us to treat patients with cutting-edge laboratory technology and directly apply lessons we have learned in several heart- disease regression investigations."

Superko and Krauss expect that this collaboration will eventually provide improved guidelines for heart specialists, as well as general practitioners, in dealing with their at-risk patients. They also see the advent of therapeutic trials, in which diet and other management techniques can be tested.

"The ultimate goal," Krauss says, "is to find ways to eliminate the processes that lead to atherosclerosis and its life-threatening consequences."