My name is Angie Campo. I graduated from the University of Virginia, majoring in Engineering Science with a minor in biomedical engineering. I am now working for SENS Research Foundation in Dr. O’Connor’s lab, and his main project is focused on using a small molecule approach to treat atherosclerosis and other age-related diseases.
My project involves using a small molecule approach to treat atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is characterized by the build-up of plaque in the walls of vasculature, such as the veins and the arteries, and the heart. Plaque is usually formed when macrophages become overwhelmed by oxidized LDLs. This causes them to become very adhesive and attach to the vasculature wall and stop functioning. Healthy sterols, such as cholesterol, help to keep membrane homeostasis. However, this sterol can undergo a reaction in the body that changes it into 7-ketocholesterol, a form that is difficult for the body to process and which disrupts the cell membrane. It is also one of the major sterols found in atherosclerotic plaques. Cyclodextrins are molecules that have been used to treat a disease where the body can’t process cholesterol, called Niemann Pick disease, by targeting cholesterol for removal. However reducing cholesterol levels too much can cause cell toxicity in the form of hearing loss. Unlike other sterols though, 7-ketocholesterol serves no function in the body. For this reason, we can remove 7-ketocholesterol from the body without impairing cell function.
We have found that certain cyclodextrins can be used to target 7-ketocholesterol and are attempting to engineer new cyclodextrins to better target 7KC. One protocol I am developing is an extraction of 7KC from whole blood cells which can help test new cyclodextrins and which eventually might be used as a diagnostic to assess the potential of developing atherosclerosis. Once an extraction protocol is established, I plan to develop a diagnostic to assess the ability of cycodextrins to remove 7KC from blood cells. From the knowledge that we gain about cyclodextrin candidates over the course of my fellowship, we hope to identify a new cyclodextrin with a preference for 7-ketocholesterol over cholesterol and which can ultimately prevent or reverse atherosclerosis.