American Heart Association funds epigenetic hypertension research at MCW
May 19, 2015 MCW News - Diet and other lifestyle and environmental factors can change your genes, which could make you susceptible to high blood pressure, or hypertension, and could be inherited. Now, researchers and physicians at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) are working to determine exactly how that happens—and why.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has formed a national hypertension research network comprised of four research institutions. AHA has awarded MCW a four-year, $3.7 million dollar award to create a Strategically Focused Hypertension Research Center that will focus on the epigenetics and epigenomics of hypertension.
Mingyu Liang, MB, PhD, Eminent Scholar, Professor of Physiology and Director of the Center of Systems Molecule Medicine at MCW, is the primary investigator who will lead the MCW Center.
Epigenetics is the study of molecular changes to the DNA that are inheritable. Epigenetic changes to several genes have been associated with the development of hypertension, but studies of those modifications at the genomic level (affecting the entire genetic sequence) are just beginning to emerge.
The research team at MCW will conduct multiple projects concurrently as part of this initiative.
David Mattson, PhD, Professor of Physiology, will study epigenetic modification of immune mechanisms in salt-related hypertension and affiliated kidney damage in disease models.
Srividya Kidambi, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine (endocrinology) and a practicing physician at Froedtert Hospital, will study the epigenomics of high blood pressure in twins and as it relates to salt intake in human subjects.
Theodore Kotchen, MD, Professor of Medicine (endocrinology) and a practicing physician at Froedtert Hospital, will focus on epigenomic modifications in hypertension and hypertension-related cardiovascular diseases in an African American population.
“This is a highly integrated, translational research program. I am excited about the possibility of making important discoveries that will advance science and benefit patients,” said Dr. Liang.
“The AHA award process was fiercely competitive, but MCW is home to one of the largest, most accomplished groups of hypertension investigators in the nation. That research team has made tremendous strides in our understanding of a widespread disease with high morbidity and mortality—and MCW’s unique strengths and extensive expertise will lead to transformational work in this field,” said Joseph E. Kerschner, MD, Executive Vice President of MCW and dean of the school of medicine.
Matthew R. Hodges, PhD, Assistant Professor of Physiology and member of the Neuroscience Research Center, has been named as one of two recipients of the 2015 Giles F. Filley Memorial Award for Excellence in Respiratory Physiology and Medicine. The Giles F. Filley Award is given to early career professionals “demonstrating outstanding promise based on his/her research program in respiratory physiology and medicine.” Each Filley Award recipient is awarded $14,500 to be used in their research program. Dr. Hodges will be presented with this honor at the American Physiological Society (APS) Business Meeting held at the Experimental Biology on March 31st, 2015, and will also be recognized at the APS Respiration Section dinner.