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Kirabo receives award from American Heart Association

Jul. 29, 2020, 2:24 PM


by Matt Batcheldor

Annet Kirabo, DVM, MSc, PhD, assistant professor of Medicine and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, is receiving the 2020 Harry Goldblatt Award for Early Career Investigators from the American Heart Association (AHA).

Annet Kirabo, DVM, MSc, PhD

The yearly award “recognizes an early career independent investigator working in hypertension or cardiovascular research who has significantly contributed to the understanding of the causes of hypertension and related cardiovascular disease,” according to the AHA.

The award’s namesake, Harry Goldblatt, MD, was a pathologist who established the first animal model of hypertension in 1934. This model allowed researchers to delineate the renin-angiotensin system of blood pressure control and design enzyme inhibitors to treat chronic hypertension.

“As a girl child born and raised in extreme poverty in a remote African village in Uganda, I have had many dreams come true, including attaining an education,” Kirabo said. “Obtaining the Harry Goldblatt award, named after one of the founding fathers of my field of research, is much more than I could ever dream. I thank my mentors, especially David Harrison, MD, (Betty and Jack Bailey Professor of Cardiology and director of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine) for believing in me and giving me the wings to fly.”

Kirabo’s research program is focused on inflammation and immune responses in hypertension and cardiovascular disease and how excess dietary salt plays a role. In a seminal study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2014, Kirabo and colleagues defined a novel pathway of immune cell activation in hypertension involving formation of products of lipid oxidation known as Isolevuglandins. They showed that these adduct to proteins and act as neoantigens in hypertension.

In a study published in Cell Reports in 2017, Kirabo and colleagues found that excess dietary salt contributes to inflammation and hypertension through a mechanism mediated by the amiloride sensitive epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) found on antigen presenting myeloid cells.

In another study published in Hypertension in 2019, Kirabo and colleagues discovered a novel pathway whereby expression of the salt sensing kinase serum/glucocorticoid kinase 1 (SGK1) in antigen presenting cells mediates salt-sensitive hypertension. In addition, they found that high salt intake is associated with changes in the gut microbiome and that these alterations contributed to inflammation and high blood pressure.

Kirabo has recently become interested in how HIV infection and/or treatment contributes to inflammation associated with hypertension, as represented in a recent paper in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

In addition, Kirabo has made significant contributions to the American Heart Association and the American Physiological Society. She is an associate editor for Circulation Research, on the editorial board for Hypertension and a section editor for Current Hypertension Reports. She has served on several AHA study sections, served on several AHA and APS leadership committees, organized and participated in symposia nationally and internationally and given many invited lectures.

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