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1.  Abdominal aortic calcification quantified by the Morphological Atherosclerotic Calcification Distribution (MACD) index is associated with features of the metabolic syndrome 
Abdominal aortic calcifications (AAC) predict cardiovascular mortality. A new scoring model for AAC, the Morphological Atherosclerotic Calcification Distribution (MACD) index may contribute with additional information to the commonly used Aortic Calcification Severity (AC24) score, when predicting death from cardiovascular disease (CVD). In this study we investigated associations of MACD and AC24 with traditional metabolic-syndrome associated risk factors at baseline and after 8.3 years follow-up, to identify biological parameters that may account for the differential performance of these indices.
Three hundred and eight healthy women aged 48 to 76 years, were followed for 8.3 ± 0.3 years. AAC was quantified using lumbar radiographs. Baseline data included age, weight, blood pressure, blood lipids, and glucose levels. Pearson correlation coefficients were used to test for relationships.
At baseline and across all patients, MACD correlated with blood glucose (r2 = 0.1, P< 0.001) and to a lesser, but significant extent with traditional risk factors (p < 0.01) of CVD. In the longitudinal analysis of correlations between baseline biological parameters and the follow-up calcification assessment using radiographs we found LDL-cholesterol, HDL/LDL, and the ApoB/ApoA ratio significantly associated with the MACD (P< 0.01). In a subset of patients presenting with calcification at both baseline and at follow-up, all cholesterol levels were significantly associated with the MACD (P< 0.01) index. AC24 index was not correlated with blood parameters.
Patterns of calcification identified by the MACD, but not the AC24 index, appear to contain useful biological information perhaps explaining part of the improved identification of risk of cardiovascular death of the MACD index. Correlations of MACD but not the AC24 with glucose levels at baseline suggest that hyperglycemia may contribute to unique patterns of calcification indicated by the MACD.
PMCID: PMC3258192  PMID: 22185588
Cardiovascular disease; aortic calcification; risk factors; AAC24
2.  Distribution, size, shape, growth potential and extent of abdominal aortic calcified deposits predict mortality in postmenopausal women 
Aortic calcification is a major risk factor for death from cardiovascular disease. We investigated the relationship between mortality and the composite markers of number, size, morphology and distribution of calcified plaques in the lumbar aorta.
308 postmenopausal women aged 48-76 were followed for 8.3 ± 0.3 years, with deaths related to cardiovascular disease, cancer, or other causes being recorded. From lumbar X-rays at baseline the number (NCD), size, morphology and distribution of aortic calcification lesions were scored and combined into one Morphological Atherosclerotic Calcification Distribution (MACD) index. The hazard ratio for mortality was calculated for the MACD and for three other commonly used predictors: the EU SCORE card, the Framingham Coronary Heart Disease Risk Score (Framingham score), and the gold standard Aortic Calcification Severity score (AC24) developed from the Framingham Heart Study cohorts.
All four scoring systems showed increasing age, smoking, and raised triglyceride levels were the main predictors of mortality after adjustment for all other metabolic and physical parameters. The SCORE card and the Framingham score resulted in a mortality hazard ratio increase per standard deviation (HR/SD) of 1.8 (1.51-2.13) and 2.6 (1.87-3.71), respectively. Of the morphological x-ray based measures, NCD revealed a HR/SD >2 adjusted for SCORE/Framingham. The MACD index scoring the distribution, size, morphology and number of lesions revealed the best predictive power for identification of patients at risk of mortality, with a hazard ratio of 15.6 (p < 0.001) for the 10% at greatest risk of death.
This study shows that it is not just the extent of aortic calcification that predicts risk of mortality, but also the distribution, shape and size of calcified lesions. The MACD index may provide a more sensitive predictor of mortality from aortic calcification than the commonly used AC24 and SCORE/Framingham point card systems.
PMCID: PMC2996339  PMID: 21067610
3.  Human macrophage foam cells degrade atherosclerotic plaques through cathepsin K mediated processes 
Proteolytic degradation of Type I Collagen by proteases may play an important role in remodeling of atherosclerotic plaques, contributing to increased risk of plaque rupture.
The aim of the current study was to investigate whether human macrophage foam cells degrade the extracellular matrix (ECM) of atherosclerotic plaques by cathepsin K mediated processes.
We 1) cultured human macrophages on ECM and measured cathepsin K generated fragments of type I collagen (C-terminal fragments of Type I collagen (CTX-I) 2) investigated the presence of CTX-I in human coronary arteries and 3) finally investigated the clinical potential by measuring circulating CTX-I in women with and without radiographic evidence of aortic calcified atherosclerosis.
Immune-histochemistry of early and advanced lesions of coronary arteries demonstrated co-localization of Cathepsin-K and CTX-I in areas of intimal hyperplasia and in shoulder regions of advanced plaques. Treatment of human monocytes with M-CSF or M-CSF+LDL generated macrophages and foam cells producing CTX-I when cultured on type I collagen enriched matrix. Circulating levels of CTX-I were not significantly different in women with aortic calcifications compared to those without.
Human macrophage foam cells degrade the atherosclerotic plaques though cathepsin K mediated processes, resulting in increase in levels of CTX-I. Serum CTX-I was not elevated in women with aortic calcification, likely due to the contribution of CTX-I from osteoclastic bone resorption which involves Cathepsin-K. The human macrophage model system may be used to identify important pathway leading to excessive proteolytic plaque remodeling and plaque rupture.
PMCID: PMC2868786  PMID: 20409295

Results 1-3 (3)