Michael Tsai, PhD

Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology

Michael Tsai

Contact Info

Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI (Pediatrics), 1975

PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI (Biochemistry), 1973

MS, Marquette University (Biochemistry), 1971

University of Wisconsin, Madison (Biochemistry), 1969



Consulting Experience

sdLDL, Denka Seiken, 2012 – 2017

Biomarkers of Cardiovascular Disease, HDL, Inc, 2011 – 2014

FDA approval of cyrolipolysis adipocyte apoptosis instrument, Zeltiq Inc, 2008 – 2009

Patent Infringement, Faegre Benson LLP, 2007 – 2008

Clinical Chemistry & Toxicology Devices Panel, FDA, 2006 – 2010

Awards & Recognition

Cooper Award, American Association of Clinical Chemistry, 2018

  • Outstanding Contributions to Service in the Area of Lipoproteins and Vascular Diseases

Visiting Professor, INSERM/ University of Lorraine, Nancy, France, 2010

Zac Award, American Association of Clinical Chemistry, 2007

  • Outstanding Contribution to the Research of Lipoprotein & Vascular Diseases


Research Summary/Interests

Dr. Tsai is a member of the Division of Molecular Pathology and Genomics who studies genetic and phenotypic biomarkers for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) risk assessment. He has been the director of central laboratories for many large population studies including the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), Genetics of Lipid Lowering Drugs and Diet Network (GOLDN), and is a faculty investigator in the Advanced Research and Diagnostics Laboratory (ARDL).

Tsai was among the first to recognize the importance of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) particle heterogeneities, the inverse association of serum triglyceride with particle sizes of lipoproteins, and the implication of these phenomena in assessing CVD risk. His laboratory continues to be active in this area and he continues to publish research findings on the utility of non-traditional lipoprotein measurements for CVD risk prediction.
Beyond lipids, Dr Tsai has extensively studied other risk factors. For example, Tsai helped pioneer the study of genetic and nutritional influence on serum homocysteine level and the usefulness of serum homocysteine levels in the risk prediction of venous thrombosis and coronary artery diseases.

Tsai’s laboratory is among the first to acquire the capability to analyze serum and red blood cell membrane phospholipid fatty acid composition. Currently, the Tsai laboratory remains one of the nation’s most active in investigating fatty acids and heart disease risk, having performed studies in large population-based cohorts including besides MESA and GOLDN the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA), the Women’s Health Study, and the Physicians’ Health Study. His team has been researching the role of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in human health. A lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of many inflammation-related chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease that are prevalent in Western societies and developing countries.

Dr. Tsai’s laboratory has recently moved into NIH-funded large-scale phenotypic and genotypic biomarker studies to investigate risk factors related to CVD such as hypertension and diabetes in pregnant women. These conditions are typically transient but can lead to complicated pregnancies and post-natal development of chronic disease, as well as predisposing women to the development of diabetes and hypertension. Through his continuing partnership with NIH and the National Institute of Child Health Care and Development, (NICHD), Dr. Tsai hopes to contribute to a more thorough understanding of the mechanisms behind these poorly studied conditions.

Since 2009, Dr. Tsai’s laboratory also conducted a long term collaboration with the Division of Intramural Population Health Research in the National Institute of Child Health Care and Development (NICHD) studying hypertension and diabetes in pregnant women as well as infertility and birth defects.

More than 50 projects have been funded by NIH/NICHD for this collaboration over the past 11 years using both phenotypic and genotypic approaches including omics platforms such as metabolomics, microbiomes, DNA methylation/epigenetics, and next generation DNA and RNA sequencing.

Through his continuing partnership with NIH and NICHD, Dr. Tsai hopes that this long-term collaboration will result in significant contributions to these important but relatively understudied diseases.


  • Garg PK, Guan W, Nomura S, Weir NL, Karger AB, Duprez D, Tsai MY. Associations of plasma omega-3 and omega-6 pufa levels with arterial elasticity: the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2022 Jun 
  • Karger AB, Steffen BT, Nomura SO, Guan W, Garg PK, Szklo M, Budoff MJ, and Tsai MY. Association between homocysteine and vascular calcification incidence, prevalence, and progression in the MESA cohort. J Am Heart Assoc. 2020 Feb 4;9(3):e013934. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.119.013934. Epub 2020 Jan 30.
  • Weir NL, Nomura SO, Steffen BT, Guan W, Karger AB, Klein R, Klein BEK, Cotch MF, and Tsai MY. Associations between omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, hyperinsulinemia and incident diabetes by race/ethnicity: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Clin Nutr. 2020 Jan 22. pii: S0261-5614(20)30008-X. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2020.01.003.
  • Cao J, Nomura SO, Steffen BT, Guan W, Remaley AT, Karger AB, Ouyang P, Michos ED, and Tsai MY. Apolipoprotein B discordance with low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in relation to coronary artery calcification in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).J Clin Lipidol. 2019 Nov 29. pii: S1933-2874(19)30354-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2019.11.005.
  • Steffen BT, Bielinski SJ, Decker PA, Berardi C, Larson NB, Pankow JS, Michos ED, Hanson NQ, Herrington DM, Tsai MY. Low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and particle concentrations are associated with greater levels of endothelial activation markers in Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis participants. J Clin Lipidol. 2017 Jun 13. pii: S1933-2874(17)30347-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2017.05.018. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Bielinski SJ, Berardi C, Decker PA, Larson NB, Bell EJ, Pankow JS, Sale MM, Tang W, Hanson NQ, Wassel CL, de Andrade M, Budoff MJ, Polak JF, Sicotte H, Tsai MY. Hepatocyte growth factor demonstrates racial heterogeneity as a biomarker for coronary heart disease. Heart. 2017 Jun 1. pii: heartjnl-2016-310450. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2016-310450. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Li D, R Thomas, MY Tsai, L Li, DM Vock, S Greimel, F Yu. Vascular biomarkers to predict response to exercise in Alzheimer's disease: the study protocol. BMJ Open, 2016: 6 (12). http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011054.
  • Bell EJ, Larson NB, Decker PA, Pankow JS,Tsai MY, Hanson NQ, Wassel CL, Longstreth WT Jr, Bielinski SJ. Hepatocyte Growth Factor Is Positively Associated With Risk of Stroke: The MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis). Stroke. 2016 Nov;47(11):2689-2694.
  • Perez-Martinez P, Alcala-Diaz JF, Kabagambe EK, Garcia-Rios A,Tsai MY, Delgado-Lista J, Kolovou G, Straka RJ, Gomez-Delgado F, Hopkins PN, Marin C, Borecki I, Yubero-Serrano EM, Hixson JE, Camargo A, Province MA, Lopez-Moreno J, Rodriguez-Cantalejo F, Tinahones FJ, Mikhailidis DP, Perez-Jimenez F, Arnett DK, Ordovas JM, Lopez-Miranda J. Assessment of postprandial triglycerides in clinical practice: Validation in a general population and coronary heart disease patients. J Clin Lipidol. 2016 Sep-Oct;10(5):1163-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jacl.2016.05.009.
  • Zhu Y, Mendola P, Albert PS, Bao W, Hinkle SN, Tsai MY, Zhang C. Insulin-like growth factor axis and gestational diabetes: A longitudinal study in a multiracial cohort. Diabetes. 2016 Jul 28. pii: db160514. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Berardi C, Wassel CL, Decker PA, Larson NB, Kirsch PS, de Andrade M, Tsai MY, Pankow JS, Sale MM, Sicotte H, Tang W, Hanson NQ, McDermott MM, Criqui MH, Allison MA, Bielinski SJ. Elevated Levels of Adhesion Proteins Are Associated With Low Ankle-Brachial Index: Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.Angiology. 2016 Jul 19. pii: 0003319716659178. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Lien CT, Tsai CC, Chen CA, Kuo C, Tsai MY. Serum ferritin is an independent factor in coronary artery stenosis among hemodialysis patients. Int J Hematol. 2016 Oct;104(4):440-5. doi: 10.1007/s12185-016-2045-8.
  • Del Gobbo LC, Imamura F, Aslibekyan S, Marklund M, Virtanen JK, Wennberg M, Yakoob MY, Chiuve SE, Dela Cruz L, Frazier-Wood AC, Fretts AM, Guallar E, Matsumoto C, Prem K, Tanaka T, Wu JH, Zhou X, Helmer C, Ingelsson E, Yuan JM, Barberger-Gateau P, Campos H, Chaves PH, Djoussé L, Giles GG, Gómez-Aracena J, Hodge AM, Hu FB, Jansson JH, Johansson I, Khaw KT, Koh WP, Lemaitre RN, Lind L, Luben RN, Rimm EB, Risérus U, Samieri C, Franks PW, Siscovick DS, Stampfer M, Steffen LM, Steffen BT,Tsai MY, van Dam RM, Voutilainen S, Willett WC, Woodward M, Mozaffarian D; Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) Fatty Acids and Outcomes Research Consortium (FORCe). ?-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Biomarkers and Coronary Heart Disease: Pooling Project of 19 Cohort Studies. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Aug 1;176(8):1155-66. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.2925.
  • Larson NB, Bell EJ, Decker PA, Pike M, Wassel CL, Tsai MY, Pankow JS, Tang W, Hanson NQ, Alexander K, Zakai NA, Cushman M, Bielinski SJ. ABO blood group associations with markers of endothelial dysfunction in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis. 2016 Aug;251:422-9. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2016.05.049.
  • Tsai MY, Cao J, Steffen BT, Weir NL, Rich SS, Liang S, Guan W.5-Lipoxygenase Gene Variants Are Not Associated With Atherosclerosis or Incident Coronary Heart Disease in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Cohort. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016 Mar 29;5(3):e002814. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.115.002814.
  • Cao J, Steffen BT, Budoff M, Post WS, Thanassoulis G, Kestenbaum B, McConnell JP, Warnick R, Guan W,Tsai MY. Lipoprotein(a) Levels Are Associated With Subclinical Calcific Aortic Valve Disease in White and Black Individuals: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2016 May;36(5):1003-9. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.115.306683.
  • Forbang NI, Criqui MH, Allison MA, Ix JH, Steffen BT, Cushman M, Tsai MY. Sex and ethnic differences in the associations between lipoprotein(a) and peripheral arterial disease in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. J Vasc Surg. 2015 Oct 27. pii: S0741-5214(15)01950-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2015.08.114. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 26518096
  • Guan W, Cao J, Steffen BT, Post WS, Stein JH, Tattersall MC, Kaufman JD, McConnell JP, Hoefner DM, Warnick R, Tsai MY. Race is a key variable in assigning lipoprotein(a) cutoff values for coronary heart disease risk assessment: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2015 Apr;35(4):996-1001. 
  • Bielinski SJ, Berardi C, Decker PA, Kirsch PS, Larson NB, Pankow JS, Sale M, de Andrade M, Sicotte H, Tang W, Hanson NQ, Wassel CL, Polak JF, Tsai MY. P-selectin and subclinical and clinical atherosclerosis: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Atherosclerosis. 2015 May;240(1):3-9. 
  • Steffen BT, Steffen LM, Zhou X, Ouyang P, Weir NL,Tsai MY. n-3 Fatty acids attenuate the risk of diabetes associated with elevated serum nonesterified fatty acids: the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. Diabetes Care. 2015 Apr;38(4):575-80. PMID: 25573885
  • Steffen BT, Guan W, Remaley AT, Paramsothy P, Heckbert SR, McClelland RL, Greenland P, Michos ED, Tsai MY. Use of lipoprotein particle measures for assessing coronary heart disease risk post-American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology guidelines: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2015 Feb;35(2):448-54. 
  • Steffen BT, Steffen LM, Zhou X, Ouyang P, Weir NL, Tsai MY. n-3 Fatty Acids Attenuate the Risk of Diabetes Associated With Elevated Serum Nonesterified Fatty Acids: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Diabetes Care. 2015 Jan 8. pii:dc141919. [Epub ahead of print]
    PubMed PMID: 25573885.
  • Steffen BT, Guan W, Remaley AT, Paramsothy P, Heckbert SR, McClelland RL, Greenland P,Michos ED, Tsai MY. Use of Lipoprotein Particle Measures for Assessing Coronary Heart Disease Risk Post-American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Guidelines: The Multi-
    Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2014 Dec 4. pii: ATVBAHA.114.304349. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25477346. PubMed Central PMCID:PMC4304970.
  • Tsai MY, Steffen BT, Guan W, McClelland RL, Warnick R, McConnell J, Hoefner DM, Remaley AT.
    New automated assay of small dense low-density lipoprotein cholesterol identifies risk of coronary heart disease: the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol.2014 Jan;34(1):196-201. doi:10.1161/ATVBAHA.113.302401. Epub 2013 Nov 14. PubMed PMID:
  • Engebretson SP, Hyman LG, Michalowicz BS, Schoenfeld ER, Gelato MC, Hou W, Seaquist ER, Reddy MS, Lewis CE, Oates TW, Tripathy D, Katancik JA, Orlander PR, Paquette DW, Hanson NQ, Tsai MY. The effect of nonsurgical periodontal therapy on hemoglobin A1c levels in persons with
    type 2 diabetes and chronic periodontitis: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2013 Dec 18;310(23):2523-32. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.282431. PubMed PMID: 24346989; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4089989.