Heart disease and stroke, together known as cardiovascular disease (CVD), are the leading killers of Americans. One person in three suffers from some form of CVD. Thrombosis (clotting) is the key player behind this group of disorders.
Today's best treatment of heart disease and stroke involves prevention –– reducing risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If a blockage does occur, drugs may help reduce damage or surgery may help restore circulation after the fact. We want to do better. We want to find cures.
Our scientists are international leaders in research in the fields of thrombosis and vascular biology. We are exploring how the complex processes of cell signaling in blood –– whether it is to activate platelets, repair injuries or regulate inflammation –– work to protect us and how they sometimes go wrong, creating damaging clots or bleeding.
Learn more about BloodCenter’s life-saving research in heart disease and stroke by visiting with our investigators and learning about their important work.
Dr. Weiler and his lab are focusing on activated protein C (APC), a regulator of blood clot formation. APC plays a significant role in controlling cell functions and can have beneficial effects.
Understanding APC’s function may lead to:
- Improved therapies for sepsis, a leading cause of death
- Potential treatments for preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy
- Protecting kidney cells from diabetes-induced damage
- Treatments for tissue injury resulting from radiation therapy
Dr. Newman’s team is studying the function of platelets. These components of blood cause clots when activated by signals from damaged tissue. Her research is delving into natural inhibitors of this process in hopes of uncovering ways to manipulate these communication pathways.
In this way, it may become possible to control diseases such as:
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Autoimmune disorders
Dr. Ma and his lab staff are working to identify the key components of how receptors on the surface of a platelet help spread messages to direct the movement, growth and activity of cells.
This area of study may help us to:
- Avoid bleeding complications by working inside the cell
- Improve our understanding of cancer and vascular diseases
Every day, in every person, billions of cells wear out and go through a natural process of programmed cell death and are replaced by newly created cells. When this process goes awry, the resulting proliferation of cells can result in cancer, autoimmune diseases, inflammation and infections.
Traditional approaches to cancer have included shrinking or removing tumors and killing cells using radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. We want to do better. We want to find cures.
In order to effectively fight cancer, and ultimately cure it, we need to understand how cancer proliferates and spreads as well as how it escapes the immune system. Just like healthy cells, cancer cells’ growth and survival is controlled by stem cells, but these cells have managed to escape destruction, first by the body’s immune system and later, by current cancer treatments.
Learn more about BloodCenter’s life-saving stem cell and cancer research by visiting with our investigators and learning about their important work:
Dr. Malarkannan and his team have successfully activated Natural Killer (NK) cells and are directing them to kill leukemia cells in pediatric patients. They are also working to apply NK cells to lymphoma, breast cancer and influenza virus-infected cells.
Understanding NK cells may:
- Reveal new ways to fight lymphoma
- Lead to a vaccination for breast cancer
- Help people combat influenza
Dr. Rao and his team are looking for the “signature” of cancer stem cells as it occurs in leukemia. Detecting these cancer stem cells requires genome sequencing, a cutting-edge technology used for the analysis of DNA.
With these advanced techniques, Dr. Rao and his lab want to:
- Detect leukemia before it happens
- Improve cancer “stage” classifications to target new treatments
- Open possible avenues for regenerative medicine
Dr. Wang and his lab are studying blood stem cells that are critical to the body’s immune system. Abnormal cell signaling causes the immune system to break down. The body is then unable to fight blood cancers and autoimmune diseases may occur.
Understanding these signaling pathways may lead to improved therapies and ultimately cures for:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type I diabetes
There are many different causes of bleeding and clotting disorders. As many as 20 different proteins are involved in a complex chemical process. When certain factors are missing, the process doesn’t occur normally, resulting in conditions such as hemophilia and vonWillebrand disease.
Today many people with blood disorders require expensive, life-long treatment regimens and continual medical care to survive and live a life that is as normal as possible. We want to do better. We want to find cures.
Investigators at the Blood Research Institute have identified numerous blood clotting factors and have developed state-of-the-art tests to help diagnose and treat these disorders. They are considered world experts in these blood diseases.
Learn more about BloodCenter’s life-saving research in blood disease by visiting with our investigators and learning about their important work:
Dr. Shi and her lab are focused on gene and cell therapy for hemophilia. About one in every three hemophiliacs develops antibodies to traditional clotting factor treatments, rendering them ineffective. Dr. Shi’s lab hopes to develop a way to do gene transfer in blood stem cells.
If Dr. Shi is successful, hemophiliacs who have antibodies to therapeutic treatments will be able to “manufacture” their own clotting factor.
Dr. Montgomery is a world-wide authority on hemophilia and von Willebrand disease (VWD). VWD is the most common inherited bleeding disorder. It occurs in about 1% of the population and it is frequently misdiagnosed. In addition, Dr. Montgomery's work in hemophilia A and B involves pioneering gene therapy discoveries.
As head of an international study, Dr. Montgomery and his lab are working to:
- Further expand knowledge to improve the diagnosis of VWD
- Develop a gene therapy approach to cure severe bleeding
About 1 in 400 African-American newborns in the U.S. is affected by sickle cell disorder. Sickle shaped blood cells cause blockages in blood vessels, leading to damaged organs and strokes. Dr. Field’s research is seeking to validate a new therapy for patients who struggle with sickle cell disease.
Dr. Field is using an advanced imaging technique to study whether this cutting-edge treatment can:
- Increase blood flows
- Lessen the intensity and frequency of these crises
The immune system is a critical part of keeping us healthy. It distinguishes between our own cells and invading pathogens. When it finds a foreign pathogen it needs to mount a defense, know when the danger has passed and keep the invader in its “memory.” Any part of this sequence may go wrong.
Traditional approaches to these diseases and disorders involve treating the symptoms and controlling the advance of the invasion or the immune system over-reaction. We want to do better. We want to find cures.
Many diseases and disorders are a result of something going wrong with this complex process – from influenza and cancer in which the body may not recognize the invader, to multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes where the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues.
Learn more about BloodCenter’s life-saving immunology research by visiting with a few of our investigators and reading about their work:
Dr. Gorski’s team is focused on the human immune system “memory.” Immune memory is what protects us from recurring infections. However, every year, influenza infects people because it has the ability to change so that it is no longer recognized by the immune memory. To the very young or the elderly, it can be deadly.
Dr. Gorski and his lab are using their knowledge to:
- Work toward more effective vaccines
- Improve the recovery of immune memory after marrow (stem cell) transplants
Dr. Dittel and her lab are studying how the immune system reacts with the central nervous system, destroying the protein sheath on nerve cells and causing paralysis, as occurs in multiple sclerosis.
The laboratory of Dr. Malherbe studies T helper cells, an important component of the immune system. T helper cells activate B cells, which create antibodies and cytolytic T kills, which eliminate virus-infected cells and tumor cells. Not much is known about how these reactions begin and how other compounds strengthen the reactions.
Immediate impacts of Dr. Malherbe’s research may be:
- Improved vaccines
- Therapies aimed at improving the body’s natural immune response
- Improved tumor immunotherapies
Advances in medicine have made transplantation a very successful method of treating devastating conditions that would not otherwise be survivable. A transplant is suitable if the donor and the recipient have compatible tissue types. A perfect match is best, but is seldom available. A highly compatible match is more typical but still may be hard to locate. And the immune system may reject it.
Many people are unable to find organ, tissue and bone marrow matches. Others have antigens in their blood which make it difficult to even find blood for a transfusion. Some of these people will die while waiting for a life-saving transplant or suffer complications from a desperately needed transfusion. We want to do better. We want to find cures.
BloodCenter of Wisconsin physicians and scientists have been at the forefront of the fields of transfusion medicine and identification of the characteristics of blood and tissue, known as antigens, which play such a vital role in the success of transplants. We are the blood experts who are sought out for our medical expertise by healthcare providers all over the country.
Dr. Aster is a world-renowned authority on human platelet antigens (HPAs) and bleeding disorders associated with low blood platelets. He has done over 40 years of pioneering research at BCW on conditions such as the body’s “allergic” reaction to platelet antigens caused by blood thinners and various other medications.
Dr. Aster and his lab have contributed to many useful diagnostic tools and life-saving treatments for:
- Drug-induced immune reactions that cause bleeding complications
- Mismatch of antigen types between mother and baby which can result in miscarriage, severe bleeding and possible death of the newborn
- Other immune diseases affecting blood cells
Dr. Mast and his research team study anticoagulant proteins that prevent blood clots from forming within blood vessels, where they can cause heart attacks or strokes. These proteins are produced by both platelets and the cells lining blood vessels. They are particularly interested in how the proteins function in patients with hemophilia and age-related memory loss (dementia).
Their research may lead to:
- New treatments to prevent bleeding in patients with hemophilia
- New insights into why blood clots form within the brain and how they cause stroke and dementia
Common cancer treatments –– like chemotherapy and radiation therapy –– as well as some complications of blood stem cell (marrow) transplants can cause weakening of the immune system. Thousands of children and adults are hospitalized annually because they have been unable to fight off infections. Dr. McFarland and her research team are conducting a trial with colleagues around the country studying a treatment that may help.
Their hope is to validate a potential way to help people with low white blood cell counts fight infections until their own white blood cell counts recover.