ETSU’s Thewke researching treatment for hardening of arteries

Published 8:29 am Monday, July 1, 2019

JOHNSON CITY — Research under way at East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine is examining possible drug therapies that could help alleviate the hardening of arteries, or arteriosclerosis, in humans.

Dr. Douglas Thewke, associate professor at Quillen’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, received a major grant award from ETSU’s Research Development Committee to focus on the role of the type 2 cannabinoid receptor (CB2). Cannabinoid receptors control bone formation and the development of atherosclerosis, which is a specific type of hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) caused by a buildup of plaque inside the artery walls.

“Arteriosclerosis results partly from medial calcification (MC) deposition of calcium in the middle layer of the arterial wall,” Thewke said. “MC is a strong risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and lower limb amputations. Currently, there are no effective treatments for arteriosclerosis.”

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in the United States. Thewke hopes that his research will lead to new treatments to curb this problem.

“The primary goal of my study is to determine if CB2 plays a role in calcification of the middle layers of arteries,” Thewke said. “If it does, drugs targeting CB2 can be developed to help prevent or reverse the hardening of arteries in humans.”

To learn more about Quillen College of Medicine, visit