Michael Tsai

John H. Eckfeldt, MD, PhD Professorship

Research Summary

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.



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

Honors and Recognition

Zac Award, American Association of Clinical Chemistry, 2007
Cooper Award, American Association of Clinical Chemistry, 2018



3-114 Nils Hasselmo Hall
312 Church Str SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455