Susan MacLauchlan, Ph.D.—Understanding Increased CVD Risk in RA patients

Susan MacLauchlan, Ph.D.—Understanding Increased CVD Risk in RA patients

Incidence of heart disease is doubled in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients when compared to the general public. This is true for patients with diabetes as well, but while a great deal of research is being done to understand this increased frequency in diabetes patients, far less work is being conducted to understand the link with RA. Traditional risk factors do not explain the nearly doubled risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in RA patients. A knowledge gap exists regarding new CVD risk factors and how these contribute to putting the vascular system at greater risk in RA patients.

Susan MacLauchlan, Ph.D., a 2021 ANRF grant recipient and Instructor of Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, focuses her research on determining why RA patients are at an increased risk for CVD and the critical factors that contribute to this risk. Hematopoietic stem cells are cells with the potential to develop into many different kinds of blood cells. A common phenomenon as we age is that one of these starter blood cells can develop a single mutation, which leads to the cells it forms having a different genetic pattern to other blood cells. People with these altered cells are more likely to develop CVD. Dr. MacLauchlan is investigating if this process and resulting altered cells might explain the increased frequency of CVD in RA patients.

Dr. MacLauchlan is hopeful that her research will provide a better understanding about RA generally, and find new reasons that the cardiovascular system is vulnerable in these patients. “To be in a position where my work may help contribute to understanding why rheumatoid arthritis leads to cardiovascular disease really propels me. I always hope my research will help patients, and I’m extremely grateful to be working on a project that may have real transformative outcomes.”

Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. There are several ways to support research through the ANRF. Find out more and donate today.

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