December 19, 2008

Three land American Heart Association awards

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Three land American Heart Association awards

Dawood Darbar, M.D., Lorraine Ware, M.D., and Roy Zent, M.D., Ph.D., have received National Established Investigator Awards from the American Heart Association (AHA).

The objective of the National Established Investigator Award (EIA) is to support investigators who have an established record of accomplishments, show exceptional promise and are mid-career. Candidates are those who have a demonstrated commitment to cardiovascular or cerebrovascular science and whose careers are in a rapid growth phase.

“The EIA was awarded to only 17 investigators this year, so Vanderbilt can be extremely proud of receiving three of the 17,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The EIA award will support Ware's translational research program focused on the effects of mechanical ventilation on fibrin deposition and injury in the airspaces of the lung. Previous studies have found that in both normal volunteers and patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, mechanical ventilation stimulates activation of coagulation in the airspaces, a process that may contribute to ventilator-induced injury to the lung.

“This award will allow us to explore the mechanisms of these effects in cell culture and animal models,” said Ware, associate professor of Medicine. “I am truly honored to receive this award and am grateful for the support of the AHA, particularly in this difficult funding climate.”

Zent, associate professor of Medicine, is studying how cell-extracellular matrix interactions regulate the normal development and function of the glomerulus, the filtering unit of the kidney. Abnormalities of cell-ECM interactions are important in regulating kidney fibrosis, which is the final common pathway of many kidney diseases that lead to end-stage renal failure.

“Winning this award is a great honor. It is one of the most prestigious awards that I can achieve, and I hope to perform at the level of the other great scientists before me who have obtained this honor,” Zent said.

The EIA will allow Darbar, associate professor of Medicine, and his colleagues to examine the underlying genetic basis for atrial fibrillation (AF) by analyzing large families with the familial form of the disorder in order to identify new AF genes. He will also focus on identifying common genetic variants that increase the risk of developing AF by analyzing large numbers of patients with lone AF and smaller AF families with only two to three affected family members.

“The goal of our research is to understand in some detail the causes of AF. By identifying genes and pathways that are important in the development of AF, we will not only be able to identify family members who may be at risk of developing the arrhythmia but also discover new treatments for this common and morbid condition,” he said. “The fact that three EI Awards were given to Vanderbilt investigators attests to the excellent research environment that we have here.”