PHILADELPHIA--Daniel J. Rader, MD, chair of the department of Genetics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a globally recognized expert in the treatment and prevention of heart disease, has been awarded the 2018 Gotto Prize by the International Atherosclerosis Society. The prize, which is given once every three years, recognizes outstanding scientific or medical advancement in understanding the causes and reducing the development of atherosclerosis--hardening and narrowing of the heart's arteries as a result of fat buildup. The condition is the primary cause of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death for men and women in industrialized nations, including the United States, where it is responsible for one in four deaths each year.
In announcing the award, the Society, which is based in Milan, called Rader "a leading translational scientist who has made major contributions to our understanding of lipoprotein metabolism. His work spans the full spectrum of translational research, extending from basic laboratory science to the development and testing of new therapeutic agents in humans. His [research] has had a major impact on current strategies to prevent and treat cardiovascular heart disease."
Lipoproteins are molecules comprised of fat and protein, and they transport other fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides throughout the body for energy use. Physiological risk factors for atherosclerosis include high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL--"bad cholesterol") in the blood and low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL--"good cholesterol"). LDL-lowering therapy significantly reduces the clinical complications of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Among his accomplishments, Rader discovered endothelial lipase, an important regulator of HDL, and described its role in the metabolism of high density lipoproteins. He also developed new methods for assessing HDL function in humans and tracing macrophage (white blood cell)-specific reverse cholesterol transport (RCT) in mice. RCT is a crucial pathway involved in the return of excess cholesterol from the body to the liver for eventual elimination.
Rader, the Seymour Gray Professor of Molecular Medicine at Penn, has also identified new genes and pathways involved in regulating lipoprotein metabolism and explaining its role in atherosclerosis. This approach, known as functional genomics, can identify possible new targets for medications and gene-editing techniques for addressing serious heart-related conditions.
Rader earned his medical degree at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, followed by an internship and residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital and a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.
Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $405 million awarded in the 2017 fiscal year.
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