looking for causes of heart disease
American Heart Association, estimates that cardiovascular disease
is responsible for more than 40 percent of all deaths in the U.S.
One in five Americans suffers from high blood pressure, and coronary
artery disease is the single leading cause of death in America
Researchers at the U.Va.
Health System received an $8 million, five-year grant from
the National Institutes of Health for a program to study how blood
vessels develop and how their contracting and relaxing activity
is regulated. The long-term aim of the research is to better understand
the causes of high blood pressure and coronary artery disease,
which could eventually lead to new treatments.
this program, we expect to identify the groups of molecules that
are responsible for muscle development, growth, gene expression,
and contraction and relaxation in blood vessels. This should provide
us with new targets for developing treatments for common cardiovascular
diseases," said principal investigator Avril Somlyo, professor
of pathology and of molecular physiology and biological physics.
Part of the program will study a hormone which is known to stimulate
cell growth, angiotensin II. The researchers will try to understand
how growth occurs in the normal development of the blood vessels
in the embryo, and also in re-narrowing of arteries in patients
who have had angioplasty, a procedure in which the blood flow
to the heart is increased. In addition, the researchers will examine
how genes that regulate blood vessel development are copied.
believe that understanding the signaling pathways that regulate
blood vessel development and regrowth are a key to the development
of new therapies," Somlyo said.
the study, investigators also will try to determine what signals
blood vessel muscles to contract or dilate. When smooth muscle
cells of blood vessels contract, the space within the vessel narrows,
decreasing blood flow and increasing blood pressure.
with Somlyo, Gary Owens, professor of molecular physiology and
biological physics, and Timothy Haystead, associate professor
of pharmacology, will lead the program's three projects conducted
at U.Va. An additional project will be conducted by David Trentham
at the National Institute for Medical Research in London.