Weibin Shi

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Primary Appointment

Professor, Radiology and Medical Imaging

Education

  • PhD, Pathology, McGill University

Research Disciplines

Genetics

Research Interests

Molecular and genetic determinants of atherosclerosis and cardiometabolic disorders.

Research Description

My primary research interest is in atherosclerosis, which is the cause of heart attack, stroke and peripheral arterial disease. Although mortality from atherosclerosis has had a decline in past few decades largely due to effective prevention programs, lipid lowering statin therapy and angioplasty/stenting, this disease continues to claim more lives than any other disease in the United States and other Western countries. Thus, there is a medical need to find new therapies for the disease. Inflammatory responses initiated by oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol) trapped in the arterial wall is a key process driving the initiation, progression, and rupture of atherosclerotic plaques. However, there are no effective medicines available to intervene the inflammatory process due to lack of appropriate targets. We use powerful mouse genetics tools to search for genes and pathways acting at the level of arterial walls and have identified Rcn2 as a key regulator of cytokine production in endothelial cells. We have mapped dozens of novel genetic loci for atherosclerosis, including Ath29, Ath41, Ath42, Ath48, Ath49, Ath50, Cath1, Cath2, Cath3, Cath4, Cath5, Cath6, Cayth7, and Cath8. We are in the process of characterizing candidate genes for the loci.
Diabetic patients have up to 4-fold increased risk for having incident cardiovascular events. We have mapped multiple loci for atherosclerosis that are overlapping precisely with loci for plasma glucose. We are testing the hypothesis that there exist genetic connections between the two important diseases.
Development of effective imaging probes targeting macrophages
Macrophages are involved in the development and progression of many important chronic inflammatory diseases, including atherosclerosis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 2 diabetes. 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET) is currently used to diagnose inflammatory diseases involving macrophages, but accurate quantitation of macrophages has been difficult due to background uptake by other cell types. We are testing more specific macrophage imaging agents that have little or no background binding to other cell types. The formyl peptide receptors (FPRs) are abundantly expressed on the surface of macrophages. We have successfully used a FPR receptor antagonist to detect macrophages in the pancreas of mice. We are in the process of designing, synthesizing and evaluating imaging gents that can be applied to humans.

Personal Statement

I have a broad background and research experience in vascular biology, pathology, genetics, and medical imaging. I first applied the lung explant technique to the study of pulmonary artery and vein constriction and relaxation in small animals when I was a graduate at McGill. As a postdoctor, I demonstrated the first direct evidence that genetic factors in atherosclerosis act at the level of the arterial wall, developed a reliable method for isolating mouse endothelial cells, and improved bone marrow and aorta transplantation procedures for the mouse. Since I joined UVA as an independent investigator in 2001, my group has discovered dozens of novel QTLs for atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, neointimal hyperplasia, body weight, and circulating biomarkers and identified Soat1, Apcs, Rcn2, and Mep1a as QTL genes.

Training

  • Basic Cardiovascular Research Training Grant

Selected Publications

Banizs AB, Huang T, Dryden K, Berr SS, Stone JR, Nakamoto RK, Shi W, He J, In vitro evaluation of endothelial exosomes as carriers for small interfering ribonucleic acid delivery., 2014; International journal of nanomedicine. 9() 4223-30. PMID: 25214786 | PMCID: PMC4159392

Rowlan JS, Zhang Z, Wang Q, Fang Y, Shi W, New quantitative trait loci for carotid atherosclerosis identified in an intercross derived from apolipoprotein E-deficient mouse strains., 2013; Physiological genomics. 45(8) 332-42. PMID: 23463770 | PMCID: PMC3633429

Zhang Z, Rowlan JS, Wang Q, Shi W, Genetic analysis of atherosclerosis and glucose homeostasis in an intercross between C57BL/6 and BALB/cJ apolipoprotein E-deficient mice., 2012; Circulation. Cardiovascular genetics. 5(2) 190-201. PMID: 22294616 | PMCID: PMC3329596

Li J, Wang Q, Chai W, Chen MH, Liu Z, Shi W, Hyperglycemia in apolipoprotein E-deficient mouse strains with different atherosclerosis susceptibility., 2011; Cardiovascular diabetology. 10() 117. PMID: 22204493 | PMCID: PMC3273441