May 25, 2001

Brown receives 2001 Young Scholar Award

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Brown receives 2001 Young Scholar Award

Dr. Nancy J. Brown, associate professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, has received a 2001 Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Hypertension. The award recognizes a significant body of work in the field of hypertension or related cardiovascular diseases.

Brown’s research focuses on the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, one of the human body’s blood pressure regulating systems. Several classes of drugs used to treat hypertension target this system. In particular, ACE inhibitors block the action of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), a protein that sets off a cascade of reactions that ultimately lead to increased blood pressure and salt retention.

In addition to effectively lowering blood pressure, ACE inhibitors have been successful in reducing mortality from heart attacks, Brown said. She and her colleagues have made important contributions to the understanding of how ACE inhibitors work to lower blood pressure and reduce death.

Brown’s discoveries “have major implications for the treatment of cardiovascular disease,” wrote Dr. John A. Oates, Thomas F. Frist Sr. Professor of Medicine, in a letter nominating Brown for the Young Scholars Award.

Brown and colleagues demonstrated that a molecule called bradykinin is important to the blood pressure lowering effects of ACE inhibitors. They have recently developed a sensitive assay to detect a bradykinin metabolite in human serum, which will allow further study of the role of bradykinin in a range of common human diseases including hypertension, diabetes, and sepsis.

In collaborative studies, Brown and Dr. Douglas E. Vaughan, C. Sidney Burwell Professor of Medicine, have shown that bradykinin stimulates release of tissue plasminogen activator, a molecule important in combating clots. They believe these findings relate to the reduced risk of heart attack in patients taking ACE inhibitors, supporting a “cardioprotective” role for bradykinin.

Understanding these complicated relationships “will enlighten our understanding of ongoing clinical trials of drugs that target the renin-angiotensin system,” Brown said.

Brown’s group also has determined that genetic variability influences human bradykinin metabolism. They discovered that a change in the ACE gene is associated with both increased ACE activity and increased breakdown of bradykinin. Some studies suggest that individuals with the variant ACE gene are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, Brown said.

Brown credits her laboratory colleagues for her research success. “These awards always recognize a group effort,” she said.

In addition to her research achievements, Brown developed and co-directs the Vanderbilt Master of Science in Clinical Investigation Program. The program welcomed its first class last fall. She also serves as associate director of the General Clinical Research Center and as fellowship director for the division of Clinical Pharmacology.

“Dr. Brown has achieved national leadership in the training of clinical investigators,” Oates wrote. “She is an exceptional physician-scientist.”

Brown came to Vanderbilt as an intern in Internal Medicine after receiving her M.D. from Harvard Medical School. She completed fellowship training in Clinical Pharmacology and was Hugh J. Morgan Chief Medical Resident before joining the faculty in 1992 as assistant professor of Medicine and Pharmacology.

Brown was elected a Fellow of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research in 1999. She received the 1999 Elliot Newman Award for best scientific citation in clinical investigation in the department of Medicine and the VUMC 2001 Grant W. Liddle Award for excellence in clinical research.