Cécile OURY - Liège - Belgium

  • Le 25 March 2022
    Amphi Denis Escande
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  • 11h30

New insights into the etiology and pathophysiology of valvular heart diseases

New insights into the etiology and pathophysiology of valvular heart diseases

Cécile OURY, PhD
GIGA PI, Research Director F.R.S.- FNRS
Laboratory of Cardiology, GIGA Research Institute, University of Liège
Liège, Belgium



Dietary cholesterol and palmitic acid are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) affecting arteries and heart valves. Ionizing radiation that is frequently used as anticancer treatment promotes CVD. The specific pathophysiology of these distinct disease manifestations is poorly understood. We therefore studied biological effects of these dietary lipids and cardiac irradiation on arteries and heart valves in rabbit models of CVD. 

Cholesterol-enriched diet led to thickening of aortic wall and aortic valve leaflets, immune cell infiltration in aorta, mitral and aortic valves, as well as aortic and aortic valve calcification. Numerous cells expressing a-smooth muscle actin were detected in both mitral and aortic valves. Lard-enriched diet induced massive aorta and aortic valve calcification, with no detectable immune cell infiltration. The addition of cardiac irradiation to cholesterol diet yielded more calcification and more immune cell infiltrates in atheroma and aortic valve than cholesterol alone. RNAseq analyses of aorta and heart valves revealed that cholesterol-enriched diet mainly triggered inflammation-related biological processes in aorta, aortic and mitral valves, which was further enhanced by cardiac irradiation. Lard-enriched diet rather affected calcification- and muscle-related processes in aorta and aortic valve, respectively. Neutrophil count and systemic levels of platelet factor 4 and ent-8-iso-15(S)-PGF2α were identified as early biomarkers of cholesterol-induced tissue alterations, while cardiac irradiation resulted in elevated levels of circulating nucleosomes.

Dietary cholesterol, palmitic acid and cardiac irradiation combined with cholesterol-rich diet led to the development of distinct vascular and valvular lesions, and changes in circulating biomarkers. Hence, our study highlights unprecedented specificities related to common risk factors that underlie CVD.


PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Liège, I am an internationally recognized expert in platelet biology and in thrombosis and haemostasis. I am the current President of the Belgian Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis. I am co-founder of the Unit GIGA-Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Liège, Belgium, and the Head of the Laboratory of Cardiology. My research team comprises about 10 people working in close collaboration with cardiologists from our University Hospital (CHU Liège). My team is pursuing a vast research program in cardiology, combining multi-disciplinarity, complementary knowledge and expertise, basic science and translational research with the ultimate goal to provide answers to major unmet medical needs for cardiovascular patient’s benefit.

Mis à jour le 02 June 2023.