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$2.8 Million to Study Genetics of Hypertensive Heart Disease

  • March 1, 2005
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$2.8 Million to Study Genetics of Hypertensive Heart Disease

St. Louis, Oct. 6, 2003 — Volunteers are needed for a study examining how the interactions between genetic factors and high blood pressure contribute to dangerous thickening and/or enlargement of the heart muscle. The study, conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is part of a four-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The full-time and volunteer faculty of Washington University School of Medicine are the physicians and surgeons of Barnes-Jewish Hospital. 

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, afflicts more than 50 million Americans and increases their risk of cardiovascular complications such as heart attack and congestive heart failure. The risk more than doubles if someone with hypertension also develops left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). Controlling blood pressure alone does not completely prevent or treat LVH, and research suggests that variations in several genes that control cardiac energy metabolism likely play a critical role.

"Hypertension is a major health problem in this country and in most of the industrialized world," says lead investigator, Victor G. Dávila-Román, M.D., associate professor of medicine, anesthesiology and radiology, and director of the Cardiovascular Imaging and Clinical Research Core Laboratory. "By understanding how genetic variations lead to disease, we hope to better understand why certain individuals are at particularly high risk of developing these health problems. Our ultimate goal is to identify genetic targets for drugs that treat and/or prevent both hypertension and hypertensive heart disease."

Dávila-Román is principal investigator for the multidisciplinary study. The team also includes cardiologists Lisa de las Fuentes, M.D., instructor of medicine, Robert J. Gropler, M.D., associate professor of medicine and of radiology, and Daniel P. Kelly, M.D., professor of medicine, of molecular biology and pharmacology and of pediatrics; hypertension specialist Angela L. Brown, M.D., instructor of medicine; genetics specialists Howard L. McLeod, Pharm.D., associate professor of genetics, of medicine and of molecular biology and pharmacology, and Sharon Marsh, Ph.D., research associate in medicine; epidemiologists C. Charles Gu, Ph.D., assistant professor of biostatistics, and D.C. Rao, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Biostatics; and diagnostics expert Barbara A. Zehnbauer, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and immunology and of pediatrics.

The team is looking for both healthy and hypertensive volunteers over age 21. They also are particularly interested in recruiting African Americans since hypertension and cardiac hypertrophy are especially common in this population.

Participants will receive a comprehensive cardiovascular evaluation free of charge, including an ultrasound of the heart and its two main blood vessels, an electrocardiogram, a complete cholesterol panel and testing for kidney damage and diabetes and 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring.

The complete evaluation takes less than three hours, and volunteers must fast for 12 hours beforehand. An optional cardiac stress test may be arranged in advance. Volunteers will receive copies of all test results.

In order to examine the role of genes in hypertension and in cardiac hypertrophy, the researchers also will collect a blood sample from each participant. Results from these genetic analyses are anonymous and unidentifiable.

For more information or to volunteer for the hypertension-genetics study, please call (314) 362-1114 or (314) 362-1076.

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