Atherosclerosis is the main underlying cause of heart disease. While cholesterol-lowering therapies have shown some promise in treating it, these don’t effectively remove pre-existing atherosclerotic plaques. Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand how to reverse cholesterol build-up in arteries.
Dr. Mireille Ouimet, Canada Research Chair in Cardiovascular Metabolism and Cell Biology, is investigating whether lipophagy constitutes a promising new target to get cholesterol flowing out of the artery wall and stimulate plaque regression. (Lipophagy is the selective degradation of lipid droplets by autophagy, the body’s process of reusing old and damaged cell parts.) She and her research team are identifying the genetic determinants of lipophagy and its role in immunometabolism and developing selective lipophagy activators and biosensors. Ultimately, Ouimet’s research will open up new avenues for targeting lipid droplets and immunometabolism in atherosclerosis and other metabolic diseases.