Faces Behind the Discovery
An “up and coming star,” according to Polish Cultural Institute New York, and one of the Polish Forbes’ Women “23 Women to Watch in 2023,” NHLBI’s Dr. Anna Wolska is making strides both within and outside the lab. Wolska is a staff scientist in the Lipoprotein Metabolism Laboratory run by NIH senior investigator Dr. Alan Remaley.
Wolska began research in lipoprotein metabolism as a student at the Medical University of Gdansk in Poland. There weren’t many opportunities to continue her research post-graduation, though, so she started emailing scientists she had cited in her Ph.D. thesis. One person she contacted in the U.S. was Remaley, but she didn’t realize she had emailed an NIH investigator until he replied.
“He responded right away,” Wolska recalled. “I was [so excited I was] jumping up and down in my apartment.”
She first came to Remaley’s lab as a volunteer funded by an International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) grant in 2014 and then stayed as a postdoc in 2015, progressing to a research fellow in 2020 and most recently a staff scientist as of 2021.
“I try to run my lab like a democracy,” Remaley said. “A lot of credit belongs to the [lab members] and I just help empower them.”
Through this system of freedom and support, Wolska developed a peptide that lowers triglyceride levels, as well as an equation that uses data from the standard lipid panel to calculate low-density lipoprotein (LDL) triglycerides.
LDL cholesterol is currently used to calculate atherosclerosis cardiovascular disease risk, but Wolska’s research found that LDL triglyceride levels might be more accurate predictors.
Fifty-plus years of eminent NIH investigators associated with the lipoprotein metabolism lab have made these discoveries possible. “This research is multigenerational,” Remaley said, beginning in the 1950s (at what was known then as the National Heart Institute) with Dr. Donald Fredrickson, who would later serve as NHLBI scientific director and ultimately NIH director. Scientist Emeritus Dr. Edward Korn, another former NHLBI scientific director, discovered lipoprotein lipase, the key enzyme that hydrolyzes triglycerides.
“One day, I’ll pass the baton to [Wolska] or someone else,” Remaley said, adding that basic science works because many generations of scientists continue to improve upon their predecessors’ knowledge.
“It’s just incredible what we can do here,” Wolska added. “[NIH] really is the best place to do research.”