Cell-type specific markers of cardiovascular disease: it’s in our blood?

We are living in the age of obesity. Obese individuals are at an increased risk of developing disease, including cardiovascular disease (CVD). At the Maastricht Centre for Systems Biology (MaCSBio), one of our aims is therefore to establish personalized risk profiles for CVD in the obese. The eventual goal is preventive medicine: identification of individuals that are at a higher risk, who can receive treatment before developing severe complications.

To build these profiles, several large molecular datasets from various deeply phenotyped cohort studies are available. These datasets are generated from whole blood, which immediately complicates matters: blood contains a range of cell types, each with a unique molecular profile. Additionally, the relative amounts of each cell type vary from person to person. Although this information is hidden, it is not very well hidden: it can be derived numerically from the data using specialized algorithms. Within this project we would be exploring several such algorithms that have recently been published that are capable of performing the task at hand.

The results will form the basis for a network based analysis: cell type specific, disease related changes in regulation of specific biological networks.