BOSTON — Although nuclear warheads and heart disease might seem to have little in common, they came together in the coining of the phrase "vulnerable plaque."
"I started using the phrase 'vulnerable plaque' in the early '90s," says Dr. James Muller of the University of Kentucky, and he first mentioned it in print in an editorial in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
At the time, Muller was in Boston, where he helped both to pioneer the study of stresses that trigger heart attacks and to found International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.
"Strangely enough, I picked the word from work against the arms race," he said. "Missiles in silos were vulnerable to Russian attack because they can be destroyed before they are used. I thought the plaques are vulnerable because something can come along and cause them to misfire."