Characterizing the role of granzyme B in atherosclerosis and hair loss in apolipoprotein E knockout mice

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Canada. Atherosclerosis is a cardiovascular disease, in which the inside of blood vessels contain fatty growths known as plaques. Over time, these plaques become unstable and can break, resulting in blockage of blood vessels. This can lead to heart attacks, strokes and limb loss. Wendy Boivin’s research explores what makes a plaque develop, grow, and become less stable. She is focusing on a protein called Granzyme B, which is known to cause plaques. What is unknown is which of two possible approaches Granzyme B uses to induce plaque formation and atherosclerosis: either by entering blood vessel cells and killing them, or by breaking down structural proteins in the blood vessel. Wendy Boivin is studying the role of perforin, a protein that is required for Granzyme B to enter into blood vessel cells. By conducting a study that observes what happens when perforin is removed from blood vessels, she can pinpoint the pathway Granzyme B uses to cause atherosclerosis. Ultimately, this study may contribute to new therapeutic targets for combating this disease.