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Lifelong Health

Understanding atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is commonly known as hardening or narrowing of the heart arteries. It is the main cause of heart disease.

This build up of plaque in heart arteries can lead to heart attack and stroke.

What's the link between plaque build up and heart disease?

Plaque that builds up in our arteries impacts on the amount of blood that can flow to the heart. Plaque deposits are made up of cholestorol and other material. When plaques rupture, the plaque material flows through the artery and can cause blood clots. Blood clots in our main arteries can cause heart attack and stroke.

A new approach to atherosclerosis

Dr Peter Psaltis and his team have identified that stem cells and inflammation play a role in the development of atherosclerosis. This opens up potential new methods to treat plaque build up and ultimately prevent heart attack and stroke.

Identifying at risk patients

A large proportion of adults have narrowing of their arteries, but experience no ill effects. A better understanding of how atherosclerosis develops also gives our researchers the opportunity to find ways to identify which patients are most likely to develop serious complications, and treat them more aggressively.


Dr Psaltis is affiliated with The University of Adelaide and The Royal Adelaide Hospital. He receives funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Heart Foundation.

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SAHMRI is located on the traditional lands of the Kaurna people.

The SAHMRI community acknowledges and pays respect to the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide region. We also acknowledge the deep feelings of attachment and the relationship of the Kaurna people to their country. We pay our respects to the Kaurna peoples' ancestors and the living Kaurna people today.