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Cardiovascular research pioneer Inagami mourned

Mar. 16, 2023, 10:44 AM


Tadashi Inagami, PhD, DSc

by Bill Snyder

Tadashi Inagami, PhD, DSc, Vanderbilt University Professor of Biochemistry, emeritus, who helped characterize the biochemical basis for hypertension, heart failure and vascular disease, died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 13 after a brief illness. He was 92.

“Tad was an exceptional scientist in the hypertension research field and brought international recognition to Vanderbilt and the Biochemistry department with over 45 years of service,” said David Cortez, PhD, the Richard Armstrong Professor for Innovation in Biochemistry and chair of the department.

“I have been very privileged to hold the endowed chair in his name for the past 10 years,” added F. Peter Guengerich, PhD, the Tadashi Inagami Professor of Biochemistry at Vanderbilt. “I remember him as a very humble and polite man” who continued working into his 80s.

Born in Kobe, Japan, Dr. Inagami earned his PhD as a Fulbright Scholar from Yale University in 1958 and a Doctor of Science degree from Kyoto University in 1963. He had been a member of the Vanderbilt faculty since 1966.

“Dr. Inagami made seminal discoveries in the regulation of blood pressure and hemodynamics,” said Raymond Harris, MD, the Ann and Roscoe R. Robinson Professor of Medicine and director of research in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension.

“I had the privilege to collaborate with him on a number of projects, and as a faculty member and a colleague, he was not only brilliant but always very helpful and generous with his time.” Harris said.

Dr. Inagami and his colleagues were the first to purify and elucidate the activity of renin, which plays an important role in blood pressure regulation. His lab cloned and characterized several receptors for the downstream vasoactive peptide angiotensin II, targets of anti-hypertensive drugs called angiotensin II receptor blockers.

His team also clarified the role that the angiotensin II signaling pathway plays in the overgrowth of cells in the heart, kidney and blood vessel walls. This understanding led to the use of medications involved in the renin-angiotensin system to treat heart failure, and vascular and kidney disease.

Later he explored the newly discovered atrial natriuretic peptide hormone, ANP. His team identified the primary structure and was first to clone its gene. They characterized these peptides and their receptors, explored their role in regulating blood pressure and blood volume, and their interactions with the renin and aldosterone systems.

Dr. Inagami directed Vanderbilt’s interdepartmental Specialized Center of Research in Hypertension, authored more than 500 scientific papers and mentored more than 100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom have become leaders in science, industry and academia.

His interests spanned the gamut from molecular biophysics to animal physiology, said long-time colleague Charles Sanders, PhD, professor of Biochemistry, the Aileen M. Lange and Annie Mary Lyle Chair and vice dean of Basic Sciences at Vanderbilt.

“It is a testament to his driving curiosity and flexibility that he made such a dramatic personal evolutionary transition over the years,” Sanders said.

“He was a very gentle man who was a great colleague and stalwart in the Biochemistry Department,” added Lawrence Marnett, PhD, the Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research, University Distinguished Professor and Dean Emeritus of Basic Sciences for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Dr. Inagami’s research achievements were recognized at Vanderbilt with his appointment as the Stanford Moore Professor of Biochemistry and the awarding in 1990 of the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research, named for Vanderbilt’s first Nobel laureate in Medicine.

He was an elected member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and recipient of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Distinguished Scientist Award, the CIBA Award for Hypertension Research and the Japan Academy Prize.

Dr. Inagami retired in 2014. He and his wife, Masako, moved to Pittsburgh to be closer to the family of their eldest daughter, Sanae Inagami, MD, MPH, a graduate of VUSM. He spent his retirement watching his grandson play baseball and walking through and exploring Squirrel Hill, Frick Park and Japanese restaurants in the city.

In addition to his wife of 61 years and his eldest daughter, Dr. Inagami is survived by daughter Mari Inagami, MD, of Westport, Connecticut, son-in-law Ananth Krishnamurthy, and five grandchildren, Mia, Emi and Kavya Krishnamurthy, Mason Daitaro, and Aiko Grace Witten. He was predeceased by son-in-law Manley David Witten.

A private memorial service will be held in June and his ashes will be interred later in the Saiko Ji Temple in Kyoto, where his family is buried. Donations may be made in Dr. Inagami’s name to the American Heart Association.

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