January 28, 2005

Capdevila lands hypertension research award

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Jorge Capdevila, Ph.D.

Capdevila lands hypertension research award

Jorge H. Capdevila, Ph.D., professor of Medicine and Biochemistry, received the 2004 Novartis Award for Hypertension Research from the American Heart Association. The award recognizes Capdevila's discovery of a biological pathway involved in the regulation of blood pressure.

“I was very honored to be selected,” Capdevila said. “I have been very fortunate to work with excellent colleagues over the last 23 years and to be continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health, even through periods when our findings were not widely accepted.”

Capdevila and his collaborators encountered resistance to their findings early on because they had discovered a new “route” for the metabolism of arachidonic acid.

They later established that this new route was part of a metabolic pathway for this physiologically important fatty acid.

The products of the pathway – compounds called EETs – have a variety of biological activities, including inhibition of sodium reabsorption in the kidney, which was first demonstrated in the early 1980s in collaborative work with Harry R. Jacobson, M.D., who is now vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

The investigators have used biochemistry, chemistry, cell biology, and, recently, genetic manipulation in animal models to characterize the metabolic enzymes of the pathway, its products, and the physiological roles it serves.

“We have demonstrated that this pathway and the products it generates regulate systemic blood pressure,” Capdevila said. The team is now conducting clinical studies and has hints that a genetic variant in one of the pathway enzymes appears to be associated with essential hypertension.

“We know very little about the molecular basis of hypertension. So any new view of how blood pressure is regulated opens new opportunities – for earlier diagnosis, prevention, and treatment,” Capdevila said.

Pharmaceutical companies are becoming interested in this pathway and are developing a set of inhibitors that could potentially lower blood pressure, he said.

“Medicine is moving toward treating disease not just in a symptomatic way, but in a molecular way. If this turns out to do that, that would be better than any prize.”

The Novartis Award for Hypertension Research was established in 1966 as the Stouffer Prize and was then called the Ciba Award from 1975 to 1996. The annual award recognizes important contributions in the fields of cardiovascular and hypertension research.