The lead Hopkins researchers who took part in this study were Eiki Takimoto, M.D., Ph.D.; Hunter Champion, M.D., Ph.D.; and Maxiang Li, M.D., Ph.D. Other Hopkins researchers who took part were Shuxun Ren, M.D.; E. Rene Rodriguez, M.D.; Nazareno Paolocci, Ph.D.; Kathleen Gabrielson, D.V.M., Ph.D.; and Yibin Wang, Ph.D. Other researchers included Barbara Tavazzi, Ph.D., University of Rome, Italy; and Giuseppe Lazzarino, Ph.D., University of Catania, Italy. Senior study author Kass is also the Abraham and Virginia Weiss Professor of Cardiology at Hopkins.
Research to date is limited on BH4, but the cofactor is being used as a treatment for phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disorder in children that results from a deficiency in the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase. Loss of this enzyme can lead to mental retardation, organ damage and unusual posture.
Cardiac hypertrophy commonly develops from high blood pressure, which forces the heart to pump harder to circulate blood throughout the body. According to the latest statistics from the American Heart Association, in 2002, 65 million Americans have high blood pressure (defined as systolic pressure of 140 millimeters of mercury or greater, and/or a diastolic pressure of 90 millimeters of mercury or greater, taking antihypertensive medication or being told at least twice by a physician or other health professional that they have high blood pressure). Patients who develop hypertrophy have two to three times the risk of suffering cardiovascular disease, including heart failure and sudden cardiac death.