Regulation of Bcl-2 family members involved in macrophage cell survival

Shih Wei Wang is examining the role of a family of proteins implicated in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a condition that puts people at risk of heart attacks and stroke. In the early stage of atherosclerosis, plaque forms along the inner lining of arteries. This occurs at sites where altered LDL blood proteins enable blood cells known as macrophages to survive. While macrophages act as scavengers to remove foreign substances from the body, macrophages also turn into foam cells that contribute to plaque build-up. Wang’s research focuses on the Bcl-2 family of proteins, including proteins that regulate cell death and others that contribute to cell survival. In experiments incorporating techniques from biochemistry, cell biology and molecular biology, Wang is analyzing proteins that influence macrophage survival and death. The research could lead to improved therapy for people with atherosclerosis, involving selective drugs that block specific proteins or enzymes.