Project cost: £8,600

Stroke is the third most common cause of death in the Western world and the most common cause of neurological disability. Patients who have a stroke due to carotid stenosis (a build up of fatty material – a plaque – in the carotid artery) are at a higher risk of having repeat strokes. Plaques can be removed surgically but the operation carries risks. Doctors need more accurate ways of identifying which patients with carotid stenosis are at high risk of a future stroke, and for whom the operation is likely to be beneficial. This research aims to do exactly that.


Bleeding can occur into a plaque and the outer layers of red blood cells (membranes) can then remain inside the plaque. These membranes contain lots of cholesterol (a type of fat). This leads to rapid enlargement of the plaque. In this study, the researchers will relate red cell cholesterol to patient’s symptoms and the plaque appearances on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging, a type of scan) and under the microscope. With further funding and more patient samples, the aim is to establish the importance of red cell cholesterol in plaque instability within the next 5 years. This will enhance understanding of what causes plaques to burst, and the development of prevention strategies.