New Orleans, LA - Dr. Eric Lazartigues, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine, has been awarded a $1.2 million Research Project (RO1) grant by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The 5-year grant will support his research to advance our understanding of the role of the brain in regulating blood pressure and the development of hypertension. Dr. Lazartigues' research could pave the way for the development of new treatments for cardiovascular disease - America's #1 killer.
Dr. Lazartigues' research group was the first to identify the presence of a new protein (ACE2) in the mouse brain. ACE2 can degrade the hormone, Angiotensin-II, in the brain. Angiotensin-II can increase blood pressure by acting in the brain and on blood vessels. Hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases are currently treated with drugs designed to block the production and action of Angiotensin-II. Dr. Lazartigues' grant will help determine the importance of ACE2 in the brain and how it alters the angiotensin system during the development of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. "This grant represents national confidence in the quality of research being conducted at the LSU School of Medicine as we continue to rebuild our research infrastructure after the devastation following Katrina ," notes Dr. Larry Hollier, Chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans. According to the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics, an estimated 79.4 million American adults, or one in three, have one or more types of cardiovascular disease. These include high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and congenital cardiovascular defects. Cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer in America, with an average death of one death every 36 seconds. Cardiovascular disease claims more lives each year than cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents and diabetes mellitus combined.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospital's and the American Heart Association's 2005 Louisiana State of the Heart and Stroke Report, cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, was the number one killer of Louisianians in 2002, accounting for 35% of all deaths. In 2002, Louisiana had the ninth highest mortality rate due to cardiovascular disease and twelfth highest mortality rate for stroke when compared to all states and D.C.
"ACE2, is a natural regulator of cardiovascular function, transforming a bad guy into a good guy," says Dr. Lazartigues. "It is very likely that a few years from now, new therapies will target this enzyme to improve the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. This new grant provides us with the opportunity to figure out how it works."
According to the NIH, the Research Project (R01) grant is an award made to support a discrete, specified, circumscribed project to be performed by the named investigator(s) in an area representing the investigator's specific interest and competencies, based on the mission of the NIH. The Research Project Grant (R01) is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by NIH. The R01 provides support for health-related research and development based on the mission of the NIH.
"Dr. Lazartigues joined our faculty in August 2005," said Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean of the School of Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans. "Despite the challenges of the unprecedented disaster that struck as he was settling in, Dr. Lazartigues refused to abandon his school or his new home, continuing this promising line of research here at LSU. This is his first RO1 grant, awarded on its first submission when it's not unusual for investigators to submit grant proposals multiple times before they're funded."
LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans educates Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's academic health leader, LSUHSC comprises a School of Medicine, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSUHSC faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout Louisiana. In the vanguard of biosciences research in a number of areas worldwide, LSUHSC faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, better treat, or cure disease.