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Inflammation, hypertension are focus of major new MCG research program

Understanding the relationship between small proteins that regulate inflammation and the big problem of hypertension is the focus of a major new research program at the Medical College of Georgia. An $11 million, five-year grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health will help MCG researchers determine if there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the two, a finding that could open the door for a new approach to treating hypertension.

"We know there is a correlation between low levels of pro-inflammatory mediators, called cytokines, and high blood pressure," said Dr. R. Clinton Webb, chair of the MCG Department of Physiology and principal investigator on the new NIH Program Project grant. "But we want to know what role these cytokines play in blood pressure elevation and hypertension."

The result could be new, direct targets for treating high blood pressure, a problem that the American Heart Association says affects one in four American adults and is a major risk factor for heart disease.

The first link between inflammatory mediators and heart attacks came with a study published in 1997 in the New England Journal of Medicine by Harvard University's Dr. Paul Ridker correlating higher levels of one element of the inflammatory cascade - the increasingly well-known C-reactive protein - with heart attacks. More recently, Dr. Ridker's group found that higher blood levels of the mediator interleukin-6 - which goes up in inflammation and actually stimulates C-reactive protein - correlates with higher blood pressure. Many physicians now prescribe a daily baby aspirin for those concerned about heart disease and have begun testing C-reactive protein levels to help predict a patient's risk for heart attack.

"Right now, there is a lot of correlation if you look at the literature between C-reactive proteins, interleukin-6, correlations between a lot of inflammatory markers and cardiovascular disea
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
23-Apr-2004


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