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American Heart Association honors Biaggioni’s research

Aug. 5, 2021, 9:22 AM


by Matt Batcheldor

Italo Biaggioni, MD

Italo Biaggioni, MD, professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, has been selected as a Distinguished Scientist of the American Heart Association (AHA) for his contributions to cardiovascular and stroke research.

The honor, created in 2003, recognizes Biaggioni for research that has advanced understanding, management and treatment of cardiovascular disease, stroke and/or brain health.

According to the AHA, the “designation is highly selective and is intended to recognize prominent AHA members who have made major and independent contributions to cardiovascular, stroke and brain health research. It is the highest honor bestowed upon a science volunteer by the AHA.”

Biaggioni, who is the David Robertson, MD, Professor of Autonomic Disorders, is one of only six scientists earning the recognition nationwide.

The honor will be formally bestowed in November at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions in Boston.

“This is a highly deserved honor. I speak on behalf of my colleagues in Clinical Pharmacology in thanking Dr. Biaggioni for his leadership, research excellence and years of outstanding clinical care at Vanderbilt,” said David Harrison, MD, Betty and Jack Bailey Professor of Cardiology and director of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology. Harrison also directs the Vanderbilt Vascular Biology Center at VUMC.

Biaggioni completed his undergraduate and medical degrees at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru. He came to Vanderbilt as a research fellow in 1984 and has served on the faculty for more than three decades.

“Whatever progress I have been able to make, it is due to the example of the people that preceded me in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology, the outstanding group of investigators that work in the Autonomic Dysfunction Center, the support provided by our institution, and the generous participation of patients in our research,” Biaggioni said.

Biaggioni’s recent research demonstrated how heat therapy can lower high blood pressure in patients with a rare condition called supine hypertension, or elevated blood pressure when lying down.

Supine hypertension affects patients with autonomic failure, a chronic degenerative disease that affects the part of the nervous system that regulates involuntary functions such as blood pressure and heart rate.

This condition is somewhat rare, but more common in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

He has also been involved in the development of novel therapies for orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when standing) and in the past year has been involved in the discovery of two novel congenital disorders of the autonomic nervous system, one of which is characterized by complete absence of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) since birth.

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