In October 2013, Timothy Nichols, MD, headed to Denmark to present findings from two of his latest research studies on insulin resistance, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia using pig models.
Dr. Nichols is a jointly appointed faculty in the Division of Cardiology of the Department of Medicine, and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine as well as a clinical physician in the UNC Center for Heart and Vascular Care.
Dr. Nichols is the current director of the Francis Owen Blood Research Laboratory (FOBRL) which was founded by Kenneth M. Brinkhous in 1947 and dedicated in 1960. FOBRL was directed by cardiology faculty member Thomas R. Griggs, MD from 1982-1996.
The mission of the FOBRL is to reduce human suffering from bleeding, thrombosis and atherosclerosis by the study of unique, genetically-determined animal models of these diseases. Specifically, the models include dogs with hemophilia A, hemophilia B, von Willebrand disease, FVII-deficiency, and Glanzmann’s Thrombasthenia and pigs with von Willebrand disease, familial hypercholesterolemia, and insulin resistance. The primary strategy at the FOBRL is to foster independent and collaborative study of these models by providing careful, humane preservation and reproduction of the animals in state of the art facilities.
At the 2nd Porcine Biomedical Models Meeting held at the University of Copenhagen in October, Dr. Nichols was invited to present two research studies using pig models initially developed by Dr. Griggs to study atherosclerosis and now refined to study late complications in insulin resistance and diabetes. These studies were performed in collaboration with David Clemmons, MD in the Division of Endocrinology.
In the first study, the insulin resistant pigs developed severe and diffuse coronary and aortic atherosclerosis similar to what is observed in insulin resistant humans. In the second study, insulin resistant pigs that developed micro- or macro- albuminuria were shown to develop renal lesions similar to what has been reported in insulin resistant humans. In both studies, useful biomarkers of the individual diseases were identified that could be used to monitor interventions designed to reduce atherosclerosis severity and the development of kidney disease.
In July 2013, Dr. Nichols also gave presentations at the XXIV Congress of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostatis (ISTH) in Amsterdam, Netherlands, serving as a Co-Chair for the Animal Models Program.
He discussed advances in using genetic approaches in pig models as well as serving as the moderator and presenter at multiple sessions dealing with the basic issues in hemophilia A and hemophilia B, which addressed his research in canine models.
Dr. Nichols also worked in partnership with Amy Oldenburg, PhD, Assistant Professor, UNC Physics and Astronomy, Caterina Gallippi, PhD, in Biomedical Engineering, and other scientists from the UNC Biomedical Research Imaging Center (BRIC) on research to image platelets in vivo to provide insight into blood clotting processes and coagulopathies. In vivo imaging can also aid in identifying sites of vascular endothelial damage related to trauma or cardiovascular disease.
Their research involved the development of a magnetomotive ultrasound (MMUS) system that provides contrast-enhanced imaging of superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) labeled platelets via magnetically-induced vibration.
The research paper, entitled, “Contrast-enhanced imaging of SPIO-labeled platelets using magnetomotive ultrasound” was published in September 2013 in Physics in Medicine and Biology and was recently selected for editorial commentary by Medical Physics Web.
For more information on Dr. Nichols’ research or the UNC Center for Heart and Vascular Care, visit uncheartandvascular.org.