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Hepatocyte growth factor is associated with progression of atherosclerosis: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)


Background and aims

Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) has previously been associated with risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, and atherosclerosis. We hypothesized that higher circulating HGF is associated with greater progression of measures of atherosclerosis: coronary artery calcium (CAC) and carotid plaque.


Participants aged 45-84 years from the prospective cohort study Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis had HGF measured at baseline (between 2000 and 2002) and were followed for progression of atherosclerosis for up to 12 years. CAC was measured at all five exams using the Agatston method. Mixed-effects models were used to examine the association of HGF and CAC progression among 6695 participants with available data. Relative risk regression was used to assess the association between HGF and new or additional carotid plaque between exams 1 and 5 in 3400 participants with available data. All point estimates were adjusted for potential confounding variables.


Each standard deviation higher HGF at baseline was associated with 2.9 Agatston units/year greater CAC progression (95% CI: 1.6-4.2, p < 0.0001), and the magnitude of this association differed by race/ethnicity (p value for interaction by race = 0.003). Each standard deviation higher HGF at baseline was associated with a 4% higher risk of new or additional carotid plaque (95% CI: 1.01-1.08, p = 0.005).


Higher levels of HGF were significantly associated with greater progression of atherosclerosis in this large and diverse population. Circulating HGF continues to show promise as a potential clinical biomarker for cardiovascular disease.

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