March for Science ATL: photos

Emory scientists and supporters of science were out in substantial numbers Saturday at the March for Science Atlanta in Candler Park. March organizers, many of whom came from the Emory research community, say they want to continue their advocacy momentum and community-building after the event’s Read more

How race + TBI experience affect views of informed consent

The upcoming HBO movie of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks reminds us that biomedical research has a complex legacy, when it comes to informed consent and people of color. A paper from Emory investigators touches on related issues important for conduct of clinical research Read more

Fecal transplant replants microbial garden

Emory physicians explain how FMT (fecal microbiota transplant) restores microbial balance when someone’s internal garden has been Read more

Heart

The science behind the Mediterranean diet

The diet calls for lots of fruits and vegetables.

Researchers, physicians, and health care providers from across the United States and Italy met recently at the Rollins School of Public Health for the first Emory Conference on Mediterranean Diet and Health. Participants focused on the diet’s relation to cardiovascular disease, cancer, neuropsychiatric disorders, and vascular health.

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, complex carbohydrates, and nuts; moderate consumption of fish and red wine; low consumption of cheese and red meat; and olive oil as the chief source of fat, explains Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, one of the conference chairs.

When topped with exercise, the Mediterranean diet—really a pattern of eating habits traditionally followed by people in the Mediterranean regions in the early 1960s—has proven beneficial for many throughout the years. But why this is so isn’t clear.
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Targeting antioxidants to mitochondria

Why aren’t antioxidants magic cure-alls?

It’s not a silly question, when one sees how oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species have been implicated in so many diseases, ranging from hypertension and atherosclerosis to neurodegenerative disorders. Yet large-scale clinical trials supplementing participants’ diets with antioxidants have showed little benefit.

Emory University School of Medicine scientists have arrived at an essential insight: the cell isn’t a tiny bucket with all the constituent chemicals sloshing around. To modulate reactive oxygen species effectively, an antioxidant needs to be targeted to the right place in the cell.

Sergei Dikalov and colleagues in the Division of Cardiology have a paper in the July 9 issue of Circulation Research, describing how targeting antioxidant molecules to mitochondria dramatically increases their effectiveness in tamping down hypertension.

Mitochondria are usually described as miniature power plants, but in the cells that line blood vessels, they have the potential to act as amplifiers. The authors describe a “vicious cycle” of feedback between the cellular enzyme NADPH oxidase, which produces the reactive form of oxygen called superoxide, and the mitochondria, which can also make superoxide as a byproduct of their energy-producing function.

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Peripheral artery disease: can help come from the bone marrow?

Peripheral artery disease affects millions of people in the United States. It’s basically hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) leading to problems with getting enough blood to the limbs. Symptoms of severe PAD include leg pain that doesn’t go away once exertion stops and wounds that heal slowly or not at all.

Lifestyle changes, medication and surgery can address some cases of PAD, but often the disease is not recognized until it has advanced considerably. At Emory, cardiologist Arshed Quyyumi has been exploring whether a patient’s own bone marrow cells can repair the arteries in his or her limbs.

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Study looks for treatment for pediatric heart disease

There have been tremendous advances in cardiac surgery over the years. Physicians can now operate on children with heart defects in the first month or week of their lives. But very little is known about how the human heart develops especially in that first year after birth.

Emory and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta researcher Mary Wagner, PhD, is leading a project looking at how the heart develops during the first year of life. This is critical, she says, because children’s hearts respond differently to medications and surgery than adults’ hearts, and many treatments currently available to pediatric heart patients were designed and tailored specifically for the adult heart.

Wagner, associate professor in Emory’s School of Medicine, and her research team will examine the physiological properties of human heart tissue from pediatric patients. The samples are tissue that needs to be removed as part of the surgical repair of the patient’s heart and would otherwise be discarded.

The ultimate goal of Wagner’s research is to examine the differences in the human heart in the first year after birth and identify novel target therapies for the pediatric cardiac patient.

Wagner’s research labs are housed at The Emory-Children’s Center, a joint venture between Emory Healthcare and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Her research is funded by a stimulus grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

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New ways to pinpoint heart failure risk

Javed Butler, MD, MPH

Javed Butler, MD, MPH

An aging U.S. population, an increase in the prevalence of obesity and improved cardiovascular therapies for acute problems are boosting the number of people living with the condition of heart failure.

Javed Butler, MD, MPH, director of heart failure research at Emory Healthcare and associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, is looking for new ways to prevent and treat heart failure.

According to Butler, heart failure is any condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood for the metabolic needs of the body, but that does not mean that the heart is not cheap oakleys pumping or the heart has stopped working. Heart failure is not a disease but a syndrome, so there’s a whole family of different diseases that can precede this condition. These are known collectively as heart failure.

In the clinic, Butler treats patients already diagnosed with heart failure. His research focuses on prevention through life style changes as well as models pinpointing who is at risk for heart failure.

Butler and his colleagues recently created the Health ABC Heart Failure Model for predicting risk of new onset heart failure in the elderly. That model has now been strengthened by validating it via a library of patient data from an earlier cardiovascular study. The results suggest the Health ABC risk model can be used to identify high-risk individuals for whom interventions can be cost-effectively targeted to prevent heart failure.

To hear Butler’s own discussion about heart failure, access the podcast from Emory’s Sound Science series.

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Emory, Georgia Tech tackle abdominal aortic aneurysms

Robert Taylor, MD

Robert Taylor, MD

Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) are a major cause of illness and death in the U.S., with the incidence increasing dramatically over the age of 55. These aneurysms are a widening and bulging of the large artery that runs through the body from the heart into the abdomen. They often go undetected until they suddenly rupture, often resulting in death within minutes.

A team of physicians and engineers from Emory and Georgia Tech is studying the biology and biomechanics of vascular inflammation and disturbed blood flow in AAAs to understand how they develop and could be prevented or detected earlier.

Cardiologist and biomedical engineer Robert Taylor is leading the Biomedical Engineering Partnership, funded by $6 million from the NIH.

Taylor points out that predicting the likelihood of aneurysm rupture is extremely difficult and patients often don’t notice them until they already are leaking or ruptured. Even small aneurysms often expand rapidly and rupture. He and his team will try to pin down specific risk factors for AAAs, which they think differ from traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

Posted on by Holly Korschun in Heart 2 Comments
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