Experimental Diet-Induced Atherosclerosis in Quaker Parrots (Myiopsitta monachus)

H. Beaufrère, J. G. Nevarez, N. Wakamatsu, S. Clubb, C. Cray, T. N. Tully

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Spontaneous atherosclerosis is common in psittaciformes, and clinical signs associated with flow-limiting stenosis are encountered in pet birds. Nevertheless, a psittacine model of atherosclerosis has not been developed for research investigations. Sixteen captive-bred Quaker parrots (Myiopsitta monachus) were used in this study. While 4 control birds were fed a maintenance diet, 12 other birds were fed an atherogenic diet composed of 1% cholesterol controlling for a calorie-to-protein ratio for periods ranging from 2 to 8 months. The birds were euthanized at the end of their respective food trial period. Histopathology, transmission electron microscopy, and cholesterol measurement were performed on the ascending aorta and brachiocephalic and pulmonary arteries. Plasma lipoproteins, cholesterol, and triglycerides were also measured on a monthly basis. Significant atherosclerotic lesions were induced within 2 months and advanced atherosclerotic lesions within 4 to 6 months. The advanced lesions were histologically similar to naturally occurring lesions identified in the same parrot species with a lipid core and a fibrous cap. Ultrastructurally, there were extracellular lipid, foam cell, and endothelial changes. Arterial cholesterol content increased linearly over time. Plasma cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) significantly increased over time by an average of 5- and 15-fold, respectively, with a shift from high-density lipoprotein to LDL as the main plasma lipoprotein. Quaker parrots also exhibited high plasma cholesteryl ester transfer protein activity that increased, although not significantly, over time. This experiment demonstrates that in Quaker parrots fed 1% cholesterol, advanced atherosclerosis can be induced relatively quickly, and lesions resemble those found in other avian models and humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1116-1126
Number of pages11
JournalVeterinary pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013


  • animal model of atherosclerosis
  • avian atherosclerosis
  • avian cardiology
  • psittacine atherosclerosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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