Genetics of hypertensive heart disease study needs volunteers

Volunteers are needed for a study examining how the interactions between genetic factors and high blood pressure contribute to dangerous thickening and/or enlargement of the heart muscle.

The School of Medicine study is being funded by a portion of a four-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, afflicts more than 50 million Americans and increases the risk of cardiovascular complications such as heart attack and congestive heart failure.

The risk more than doubles if someone with hypertension also develops left ventricular hypertrophy. Controlling blood pressure alone does not completely prevent or treat left ventricular hypertrophy, and research suggests that variations in several genes that control cardiac energy metabolism likely play a critical role.

The team is looking for both healthy and hypertensive volunteers older than 21. The researchers are particularly interested in recruiting African-Americans because hypertension and cardiac hypertrophy are especially common in this population.

“Hypertension is a major health problem in this country and in most of the industrialized world,” said lead investigator Victor G. Dávila-Román, M.D., associate professor of medicine, of anesthesiology and of radiology and director of the Cardiovascular Imaging and Clinical Research Core Laboratory.

“By understanding how genetic variations lead to disease, we hope to better understand why certain individuals are at particularly high risk of developing these health problems. Our ultimate goal is to identify genetic targets for drugs that treat and/or prevent both hypertension and hypertensive heart disease.”

Participants will receive a free comprehensive cardiovascular evaluation, including an ultrasound of the heart and its two main blood vessels, an electrocardiogram, a complete cholesterol panel, testing for kidney damage and diabetes and 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring.

The complete evaluation takes less than three hours. Volunteers must fast for 12 hours beforehand.

An optional cardiac stress test may be arranged in advance. Volunteers will receive copies of all test results.

In order to examine the role of genes in hypertension and in cardiac hypertrophy, the researchers will also collect a blood sample from each participant. Results from these genetic analyses are anonymous and unidentifiable.

Dávila-Román is principal investigator for the multidisciplinary study. Other team members are cardiologists Lisa de las Fuentes, M.D., instructor of medicine; Robert J. Gropler, M.D., associate professor of medicine and of radiology; and Daniel P. Kelly, M.D., professor of medicine, of molecular biology and pharmacology and of pediatrics; and hypertension specialist Angela L. Brown, M.D., instructor of medicine.

The team also comprises genetics specialists Howard L. McLeod, Pharm.D., associate professor of genetics, of medicine and of molecular biology and pharmacology; and Sharon Marsh, Ph.D., research associate in medicine; epidemiologists C. Charles Gu, Ph.D., assistant professor of biostatistics; and D.C. Rao, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Biostatics; and diagnostics expert Barbara A. Zehnbauer, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and immunology and of pediatrics.

For more information or to volunteer for the study, call 362-1114 or 362-1076.

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