Medicine: The Errant Cell

Atherosclerosis, a form of arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a major cause of the heart disease that claims more than 1,000,000 American lives each year. Most doctors believe that fats like cholesterol are primarily responsible for the gradual arterial buildup of the hard, fibrous deposits that characterize the condition. A University of Washington pathologist offers a startlingly different explanation. Relegating cholesterol to a secondary role in heart disease, Dr. Earl Benditt suggests that atherosclerotic deposits, or plaques, may be derived from a single abnormal cell that multiplies into tumor-like growths.

Benditt's hypothesis is based on experiments with chickens, which developed...

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