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Lipid Research Group

The Lipid Research Group is a small research group that straddles the Department of Medicine (Division of Lipidology) and Department of Pathology (Division of Chemical Pathology) at the University of Cape Town. Our goal is to improve recognition and treatment of dyslipidemia in Southern Africa. We particularly focus on patients with severe, unusual or difficult to treat lipid disorder.

From a diagnostic point of view our group is involved in the development and evaluation of specialised lipid tests and provides a specialised lipid diagnostic service for practitioners in South Africa. Therapeutically, we participate in multiple clinical trials evaluating novel lipid-lowering or antiatherosclerotic therapies. Members of the Lipid Research Group also participate in the development of Treatment Guidelines for South Africa and advocate to medical funders and the Department of Health on behalf of patients with lipid disorders. Our group also teaches at an undergraduate and postgraduate level. Additionally, there is an annual three-day lipid course for doctors who want to deepen their knowledge about Lipidology.

Group Members

  • Prof. Dirk Blom | Group Lead
  • Prof. Davis Marais | Group Lead Laboratory Research
  • Richmond Ateko, PhD Student
  • Dr Dee Blackhurst, Lipid Laboratory Scientist
  • Dr Brigitte Brice, Sub-Investigator Clinical Trials
  • Gabrielle Solomons, Genetic Laboratory Scientist
  • Shireen Surtie, Clinical Study Coordinator 

Research Projects

Clinical Trials

Our clinical trial work includes research studies with monoclonal antibodies, adnectins and siRNA directed against PCSK9 and monoclonal antibodies directed against ANGPTL3 for patients with heterozygous and homozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia. Additionally, we are involved in clinical trials evaluating the effects of bempedoic acids, pemafibrate and volanesorsen. These are generally pharmaceutical industry driven and sponsor trials. Our group usually assumes the National Coordinator position for these studies and is often actively involved in the steering and analysis of these trials.

Dysbetalipoproteinaemia in Ghana

This PhD project is being undertaken by Mr Richmond Ateko. The project will determine the prevalence of dysbetalipoproteinemia, and other severe disorders of lipoprotein metabolism, in an urban population in Ghana. The population to be screened will be drawn from two sources: healthy volunteers attending church services and patients attending a tertiary level hospital diabetes or cardiac clinic.

Following sample collection samples will be transferred to Cape Town for analysis by routine chemistry and gradient gel electrophoresis. Samples that show electrophoretic patterns suggestive of dysbetalipoproteinemia will be investigated further including determination of apoE genotype.

This project will ultimately benefit Ghanaian patients with lipid disorder as it will establish gradient gel electrophoresis as a diagnostic technique in Ghana in addition to transferring the ability to do basic genetic testing. This will allow for accurate diagnosis of lipid disorders and improved treatment.

Lp(a) in patients with dysbetalipoproteinemia

This project is a collaboration with Prof Gilles Lambert from the University of La Réunion. The metabolism, and especially the clearance, of Lp(a) remains poorly understood. This project will examine the influence of apoE genotype on Lp(a) levels and size in a cohort of patients with dysbetalipoproteinemia from the Lipid Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital of the University of Cape Town. It will involve detailed analysis of lipoprotein utilising NMR.


This pharmacogenomic study is being undertaken in collaboration with the Division of Genetics and Division of Hypertension at the University of Cape Town. The broad aim of the proposed project is to determine the profile of genetic variants of pharmacogenomics relevance in South African population groups & evaluate their utility in developing a pharmacogenomics test for use among patients requiring treatment hypertension and dyslipidemia.

Suitable patients will be identified by database review and direct folder review at the Lipid Clinic and Hypertension Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital. Patients with statin associated muscle symptoms will be matched with patients who tolerate statins well from the Lipid Clinic cohort.

A wide variety of genetic testing will be performed including testing with established pharmacogenomics arrays as well as exome sequencing.

Homozygous Familial Hypercholesterolaemia International Clinical Collaborators (HICC)

This registry study collects data on patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia from all over the world. Currently the registry includes data from over 760 patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia from 38 countries. It is the largest repository of data on patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia.

It is led by investigators from the University of the Witwatersrand, University of Amsterdam, University of Pennsylvania and the University of Cape Town.

The registry has allowed us to highlight the plight of patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolaemia who do not live in high income countries. These patients are much less likely to receive novel lipid-lowering agents, have higher on treatment LDL cholesterol levels and shorter survival.