URMC Researchers Don’t Skip a Beat at Major Heart Conference

November 18, 2010

Patrizia Nigro, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

Scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center delivered a strong showing at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2010 in Chicago this week, delivering oral and poster presentations and invited lectures, moderating sessions and taking home awards acknowledging remarkable research. 

The Scientific Sessions is one of the largest cardiac meetings of the year, with scientists and clinicians from across the country and around the world in attendance. Researchers from the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute and the Heart Research Follow-up Program were among them, showcasing the breadth and depth of basic and clinical cardiology research conducted at Rochester.

“All of us were very excited to present our work at the Scientific Sessions this year. This meeting provides an excellent opportunity to highlight our outstanding clinical and basic research teams from the Medical Center,” said Charles Lowenstein, M.D., chief of Cardiology and director of the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Medical Center.  

Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute

Jinjiang Pang, M.D., Ph.D.

Researchers from the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI) presented a diverse range of basic science studies, including several noteworthy studies derived from Medical Center CEO Bradford C. Berk’s laboratory:

Patrizia Nigro, Pharm.D., Ph.D., presented a scientific poster highlighting a potential therapeutic target for atherosclerosis – the hardening and narrowing of arteries and a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Nigro found that deletion of the protein cyclophilin A in mice with high cholesterol prevented the development of atherosclerosis. Cyclophilin A may be a new target to inhibit atherosclerosis formation.

Jinjiang Pang, M.D., Ph.D., gave an oral and a poster presentation on the regulation of Notch – a molecule that is extremely important for the development of blood vessels in an embryo and throughout adulthood. Pang discovered that elimination of a protein known as GIT1 speeds up Notch signaling and subsequently inhibits vessel development in the retina and lungs of mice. While Notch is a well-studied molecule, little is known about how it is regulated. This study adds to the body of knowledge surrounding Notch and may be helpful in the development of potential cardiovascular treatment targets down the road.

Cameron World, Ph.D.

Cameron World, Ph.D., revealed a newly discovered mechanism by which cells survive in stressful environments, such as those created by a high fat diet or high glucose levels (as found in diabetics), allowing inflammation and cardiac disease to follow. At the center of the finding are two proteins – thioredoxin-interacting protein and thioredoxin1 – the interaction of which typically promotes cell death, but, in response to inflammatory stimuli (high fat or glucose), actually does the opposite and promotes cell survival. In the future, this specific mechanism may be a viable drug target to inhibit inflammation and related cardiac disease progression.

“Our strong team at CVRI continually elevates the Medical Center’s basic cardiovascular research to greater heights, zeroing in on important therapeutic areas and pinpointing new targets in the search for better treatments for heart and vascular disease,” said Berk, a professor at CVRI. “The findings presented this week represent just a small fraction of all the terrific work being done by our scientists.”

Additionally, Jun-ichi Abe, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor at CVRI, received the Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology Special Recognition Award in Vascular Biology for his work studying blood flow, how it’s regulated and its influence on inflammation and arteriosclerosis development. Mark Taubman, M.D., dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and a professor at CVRI, moderated a special editor’s session titled “The Not so Micro Effects of Microparticles.”

Heart Research Follow-up Program

Moving from basic to clinical care research, the Heart Research Follow-up Program team at the Medical Center gave invited presentations and shared several follow-up studies from the ground-breaking MADIT-CRT trial (Multicenter Automatic Defibrillator Implantation Trial – Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy). Arthur Moss, M.D., published an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine commenting on a new resynchronization therapy study presented at the meeting, and the team also covered new updates related to Long QT syndrome, another strong area of expertise at Rochester.

Moss’ editorial, titled “Preventing Heart Failure and Improving Survival,” offered perspective on a new study by a Canadian group. The new study confirms Moss’ previous findings that cardiac resynchronization therapy plus defibrillator (CRT–D) effectively reduces risk of death or heart failure in patients with mild to moderate disease.

Moss gave several invited lectures at the meeting as well, including:

  • A presentation titled “Cardiac-Resynchronization Therapy for the Prevention of Heart Failure Events” at the “Groundbreaking Studies in the Practice of Cardiovascular Medicine: Circulation Editors Choices” session.
  • A lecture on “The Clinical Spectrum of Inherited Ion Channel Dysfunction” at the Cardiac Electrophysiology Society.

Moss also served as an invited participant in a moderated American Heart Association session called “Management of Patients with Inherited Arrhythmic Disorders: LQT, SQT, Brugada and More.”

In addition to Moss’ involvement, several scientists shared abstracts featuring sub-analyses from MADIT-CRT. Led by Wojciech Zareba, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Heart Research Follow-up Program, the group includes: Andrew Brenyo, M.D., Craig Narins, M.D., Scott McNitt, M.S., Helmut Klein, M.D., and W. Jackson Hall, Ph.D., from the Medical Center. Greg Pietrasik, M.D., a former fellow at the Medical Center, also participated in the research. Jean-Phillippe Couderc, Ph.D., M.B.A., and Jean Xia from the Center for Quantitative Electrocardiography and Cardiac Safety at the Medical Center presented an abstract on drug-induced heart rhythm abnormalities.

Zareba, a world expert on the treatment of arrhythmias, served as an invited panelist and moderator for a meeting session titled “Inherited Arrhythmias: Testing and Risk Assessment” as well.  

Finally, Ilan Goldenberg, M.D., research associate professor in the Heart Research Follow-up Program, received an American Heart Association Council on Cardiovascular Disease in Youth Outstanding Research Award in Pediatric Cardiology for his study titled “Risk of Cardiac Events in Genotype-Negative Family Members of Patients with Long QT Syndrome.” This award is offered each year to three of the 10 highest-scoring abstracts submitted to the AHA Scientific Sessions in categories sponsored by the Cardiovascular Disease in Youth Council.

Outside of CVRI and the Heart Research Follow-up Program, clinician John Bisognano, M.D., Ph.D., director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Clinical Preventive Cardiology, presented a talked on “Emerging Treatments for Resistant Hypertension: Carotid Sinus Stimulation and Renal Nerve Ablation” at an ask the experts session called “Resistant and Refractory Hypertension: A Clinical Update.”

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Emily Boynton
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