Jason Hope, the Arizona tech entrepreneur famous for founding mobile content provider Jawa, has been recognized in a special ceremony for his massive $500,000 contribution to the SENS Foundation, to be used in the study of atherosclerosis and its underlying disease processes. This is not the first time the prolific philanthropist has made a big donation. But Hope says that this donation marks a shift in his view of the direction in which medical research should go in the 21st century.
Echoing a growing medical consensus, Hope reflects on the fact that the current ethos driving the medical establishment, especially in the United States, is one that has emphasized treating diseases which have already appeared. In an unfortunate number of cases, these diseases are only caught in the advanced stages, when even cutting-edge treatments are less effective. Hope sees the best way forward not as going after diseases that have already appeared but preventing them from ever occurring in the first place.
A silent killer deadlier than most know
Atherosclerosis is among the deadliest killers in its own right. Each year, more Americans die of coronary disease than of any other illness. Most of those cases are the direct end result of atherosclerosis. However, Jason Hope recognized that this disease’s claws dig much deeper into the health of the nation.
The underlying process that generates atherosclerotic plaque is implicated, at least in part, in almost every major degenerative disease associated with aging. In atherosclerosis, fibrinous plaques form when phospholipids and other substances flowing through the bloodstream attach to the walls of blood vessels. These cause small imperfection in the vessel wall, which the body recognizes as damage. An inflammatory response is then set in motion in which the body sends in its natural repair kit to cover up the injured spot and return the vessel wall to its normal state. However, the fibrinotic scar tissue, or plaque, only covers the damaged area. After many of these plaques form over and over, the blood supply can be severely restricted. If a plaque ruptures, a clot will form, which can cut off blood flow completely. This causes a heart attack.