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Section of Atherosclerosis

Houston, Texas

BCM faculty, staff and trainees are the heart of the organization.
Section of Atherosclerosis and Vascular Medicine
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The Maria and Alando J. Ballantyne, M.D.,
Atherosclerosis Clinical Research Laboratory

Goals and Objectives

Our goal is to provide patients, physicians and clinicians with precise, accurate and quality testing in a timely manner. Our objective is to continue to be among the leaders in the ever-changing scope of preventive, predictive and diagnostic cardiovascular testing.

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Experience

The Atherosclerosis Clinical Research Laboratory (ACRL) was established in 1971 as a core laboratory for the Baylor Lipid Research Clinic and continued to participate in this program until 1984. The laboratory now functions as a core laboratory in the Department of Medicine, serving both clinical and research purposes. Since 1985, the laboratory has served as Central Lipid Laboratory for the ARIC study (extended in 2000 with the ARIC renewal). The ACRL has since been instrumental in working with other investigators to obtain funding for additional ancillary studies to the ARIC Study.

The following are examples of successfully funded ARIC ancillary studies:

  • Postprandial Lipoproteins and Atherosclerosis Study (1990)
  • The Markers of Type II Diabetes–The ARIC Study (initial pilot study from 1998 to 2001 and extended from 2001 to the present as The Inflammatory Precursors of Type II Diabetes- The ARIC Study)
  • Phytosterols and Incident CHD in ARIC Study (2005)

Other clinical studies that the ACRL is participating in are:

  • Retinopathy Diabetes Project (1998 to present)
  • Repaglinide Vs Glyburide Comparative Effect on Post Prandial Lipemia: An Open-Labeled, Randomized, Parallel Group Study (2002)

In addition, the ACRL has taken the lead role in obtaining NIH funding to perform measurements of novel analytes as part of an ancillary study entitled, "Obesity, Inflammation and Thrombosis: The LOOK AHEAD Study."

The laboratory has also participated in technology development with biotechnology companies, and work in the laboratory has led to FDA approval of new diagnostic tests such as Lp-PLA2 (PLAC-test™ from Diadexus Inc.).

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Research Focus

Basic Research

The general area of research interest for the ACRL is the role of cell adhesion molecules in vascular disease. Dr. Ballantyne and colleagues have adopted a molecular genetic approach toward this problem and have utilized targeted homologous recombination to develop mutant mice deficient in various cell adhesion molecules. In regard to beta-2 integrins, they have had successful germ line transmission of mutant mice deficient in CD11a, CD11b, CD11c, and CD11d. In addition, mutant mice deficient in intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) and P-selectin are available. These mice are being studied in models of acute and chronic cardiac allograft rejection, in a newly developed model of myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury in the mouse, and in new models of vascular injury. Characterization of the mutant mice involves a wide range of techniques, including molecular biology, cell biology, and integrative physiology.

Clinical Research

The focus of the ACRL's clinical research is the prevention of atherosclerotic vascular disease. This interest includes pharmacological studies to assess the efficacy and benefits of lipid-lowering drug therapy, angiographic trials to examine the effects of lipid-lowering drugs on the progression of coronary atherosclerosis, and a large multicenter registry examining the safety and efficacy of lipid-lowering therapy after heart transplantation. As the director of the core laboratory for the Atherosclerosis Risk in Community (ARIC) study, Dr. Ballantyne is studying whether novel molecular markers might be useful in identifying high risk individuals. Both genomics and proteomics will be used to identify novel molecules that are involved in the etiology of atherosclerosis.

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Facilities

The ACRL is housed on the 7th floor of the Fondren/Brown Building at The Methodist Hospital. Approximately 650 sq.ft. of office space are available to the director, co-director, laboratory manager, and laboratory personnel including postdoctoral fellows.

The laboratory is well equipped with:

  • Several fume hoods
  • 2 pH meters
  • 2 refrigerators
  • 18 ultra-low temperature freezers
  • 1 Cary UV/VIS spectrophotometer
  • 1 Bio-Tek UV/Vis microplate reader
  • 1 Bio-Tek Synergy HT fluorimeter
  • Several stir-plates
  • Several hot-plates
  • 1 Beckman gamma counter
  • 1 low-speed centrifuge
  • A walk-in cold room
  • A large two-door cooler
  • Several electrophoresis chambers with power supplies
  • 2 circulating water baths
  • 2 automated chemistries analyzers (Hitachi 911 and Olympus AU400e)
  • 1 multiplex analyzer—the Luminex 100 system
  • 2 Hewlett Packard 6890 gas chromatography–HP5973 mass spectrometry systems
  • 1 Thermo Finnigan liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry system (LCQ DECA XP PLUS ESI/Surveyor/PDA5 with MSn Ion trap system)
  • 1 Tecan robotic liquid handling station

Computing resources include:

  • 12 desktop PCs with Windows 2000 and Professional Office 2003 software
  • 1 server PC that backs up all data on a daily basis
  • 1 laptop

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Personnel

Director

Christie M. Ballantyne, M.D., Professor of Medicine – Dr. Christie M. Ballantyne is the Principal Investigator of the ACRL at Baylor College of Medicine. He is responsible for carrying out the proposed measurements of analytes, developing proposals for data analysis with the Coordinating Center and manuscript preparation, in collaboration and consultation with the Study Steering Committee. Dr. Ballantyne has been the Principal Investigator of the ARIC Atherosclerosis Laboratory (formerly the Lipid Laboratory) since 1998 and brings to this study unique expertise with prior training in molecular genetics, molecular biology of inflammation and atherosclerosis, and clinical trials in lipids and atherosclerosis. His combined expertise in both the clinical aspects of atherosclerosis and the emerging basic science has proven useful in the evaluation of potential analytes for measurement, data analysis and interpretation, and conceptual translation of how emerging scientific information may change clinical guidelines for assessment and treatment of atherosclerosis.

Scientific Director

Ron Hoogeveen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor – Dr. Ron Hoogeveen, serves the ACRL (Lipid Laboratory) as the Scientific Director and Director of assay development. He has more than 16 years of experience in basic research focusing on the molecular biology and biochemistry of cholesterol and lipoprotein metabolism. Current studies examine the role of cholesterol-transport proteins such as caveolins and ABC proteins in the regulation of intracellular cholesterol homeostasis. Dr. Hoogeveen has experience with a wide variety of laboratory methodologies and has been directly involved in assay development and evaluation for FDA approval. He manages and supervises all GC-Mass Spectrophotometry analyses for the ACRL. The development of new technologies may aid the Atherosclerosis Clinical Research Laboratory in the discovery of novel biomarkers for cardiovascular disease.

Faculty

Addison Taylor, M.D., Ph.D., Professor – Research interests focus on the identification of mechanisms of human cardiovascular physiology and pathophysiology, and those that examine the molecular pathophysiology of hypertension, oxidative stress, inflammation and atherosclerosis. A brief summary of his current projects can be found here.

Administrative and Technical Support

Charles Etta Rhodes, B.S. – Ms. Charles Etta Rhodes, B.S., is responsible for daily monitoring of the laboratory and maintaining laboratory accreditation by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). She has extensive experience with NIH collaborative trials including quality control and data management issues. Mrs. Rhodes will manage all records and supervise archiving of specimens. Other responsibilities include maintaining a quality assurance program for laboratory-based procedures, which includes a Manual of Operations containing written standard operating procedures; electronic data base development and maintenance. Mrs. Rhodes will administratively maintain inventory of supplies in accordance to the budget.

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Technical Staff

Our technical staff meets “good laboratory standards” requirements and has considerable experience with all measurements performed within the ACRL. Additionally, our technicians are cross-trained for all ACRL laboratory procedures and follow BCM and ACRL SOP guidelines.

Jennifer Nerie Alvarez, B.A., is a Research Technician, who joined the Atherosclerosis Laboratory in 2006. She is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX. She serves in various capacities for the laboratory. She maintains our freezer inventories, office and laboratory supplies inventory, and clerical management. She also performs much of our laboratory data entries-reporting and maintains the databases for several of our research projects. Her contribution to the laboratory is notable and is an asset.

Jennifer Jiang, B.A., is a Research Technician who joined the Atherosclerosis Laboratory in 2006. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She performs basic and clinical research for the laboratory, and is experienced in analyzing samples using ELISA and Fluorometric Assays. She is also trained in running the Olympus automated chemistry analyzer and the Tecan Freedom liquid handling station.

Amanda Solis, B.S., is a Research Technician II, who joined the Atherosclerosis Laboratory in June 2006. She graduated from Angelo State University with a Bachelor of Science in biology. She performs basic and clinical research for the laboratory by operating the Hitachi 911 and Olympus AU400 chemistry analyzers. Amanda also maintains the laboratory freezers and helps with the freezer inventory.

Joe Raya, B.S., is a GC/MS Technician who has considerable experience in the areas of lipid extraction and lipoprotein isolation. He has particular expertise in the quantitation of oxidatively modified lipids using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry methodologies. His responsibilities include the following:

  • Sample analysis using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS)
  • Data Handling and report preparation
  • Quality Control/Quality Assurance
  • Instrument Maintenance/ troubleshooting , calibration, and validation of equipment
  • Method development and research

John W. Gaubatz, M.S., provides technical support for the lab in the performance of ELISA measurements for various analytes such as Ox-LDL as well as involvement in the further development of the Luminex instrumentation introduced by the lab in 2000. Additionally he provides desktop support and maintenance for the group and manages the backup of data.

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Accreditation

Both the College of American Pathologists (CAP) and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) accredit the Atherosclerosis Clinical Research Laboratory. The laboratory has its own Quality Assurance Plan which meets NCCLS guidelines as well as that of Baylor College of Medicine, The Methodist Hospital, and the state of Texas.

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