26 June 2023

Michael Ploug receives research grant to study the breakdown of fat in the smallest blood vessels

Michael Ploug, group leader at the Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (KU) and Rigshospitalet, has in collaboration with 5 international research institutions secured a significant research grant from the Leducq Foundation. The funding will support an international collaboration of experts in the fields of heart disease and lipid metabolism to investigate the molecular mechanisms responsible for the breakdown of fat in the smallest blood vessels—a process called "intravascular lipolysis". Ultimately, this research may generate new treatment options of heart-related health problems.

The goal of Leducq Networks is to foster a vibrant atmosphere where synergy and creativity leads to discoveries that would be impossible to achieve by individual groups working alone. With this network we aim to explore new enigmas in intravascular lipid metabolism, and this award will allow us to do what we do best—perform basic science with an eye to clinical translation and train the next generation of cardiovascular scientists”, says Michael Ploug, BRIC group leader.

Heart disease is a major concern worldwide, and one of the contributing factors is the way our bodies process fats in the blood. Ploug and his team aim to unravel the mysteries behind this process. They will focus on a key enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which plays a vital role in breaking down fats in the blood vessels.

The researchers will study how certain proteins interact with LPL and influence its function. They will also examine the distribution of LPL within blood vessels and explore how this system regulates  levels of fats in the blood and the risk of heart disease. By understanding these processes, the team hopes to develop new treatments that can lower fat levels in the blood, reducing the risk of heart disease.

We expect that the synergy and creativity of our team will create new insights into intravascular lipolysis and solve longstanding mysteries in the regulation of lipoprotein lipase activity—both at the protein structure level and the level of vascular biology and physiology.  With increased insights into the regulation of LPL activity, we will work to develop strategies for augmenting LPL activity within the tiny blood vessels (capillaries), and developing treatment strategies for patients with high levels of fats in their blood”, says Michael Ploug, BRIC group leader. 

The research project brings together a team of international experts in metabolism and heart health. They will collaborate closely, sharing their knowledge and expertise to make groundbreaking discoveries. The project's duration is five years, thanks to the generous 8.000.000$ of funding provided by the Leducq Foundation. The findings from this study could lead to significant advancements in preventing and treating heart disease, ultimately improving the health and well-being of millions of people worldwide.

To learn more about this research project and its objectives, please visit the Leducq Foundation website: Intravascular lipolysis and cardiometabolic disease: molecular physiology, vascular biology, and therapeutics | (fondationleducq.org)

Or contact Michael Ploug: michael.ploug@bric.ku.dk

The coordinators of the project are: Michael PLOUG, Copenhagen University (BRIC) and Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet) (Denmark) & Alan REMALEY, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (USA). The members are: Anne BEIGNEUX, University of California, Los Angeles (USA), Christer BETSHOLTZ, Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), Gabriel BIRRANE, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (USA), Loren FONG, University of California, Los Angeles (USA), Thomas JØRGENSEN, University of Southern Denmark (SDU) (Denmark), Maarja MAE, Uppsala University (Sweden) & Stephen YOUNG, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles (USA).