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Release: June 6, 2000

Heistad receives $5.7 million program project grant from NIH

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the University of Iowa College of Medicine a five-year, $5.7 million program project grant.

Researchers at the UI Cardiovascular Center will use the award to study mechanisms that lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is the major cause of heart attack, which in turn is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Donald D. Heistad, M.D., Zahn Professor of Cardiology and director of the Cardiovascular Diseases Division in the UI department of internal medicine, and a professor in the UI department of pharmacology, will serve as the program director.

Themes of the research program are to determine mechanisms that lead to abnormal function of blood vessels during the development of atherosclerosis and to study ways that vessels improve during treatment of high cholesterol. The goal of one project is to examine mechanisms that contribute to acceleration of atherosclerosis by hypertension. Another project examines ways that oxidants affect arteries during development of atherosclerosis and the importance of antioxidants in protecting vessels. Another project examines the growth and death of cells in atherosclerotic arteries and how oxidants contribute to these processes. The investigators expect to understand more clearly some therapeutic approaches to atherosclerosis, including the role of antioxidants, treatment of hypertension and treatment of elevated cholesterol.

"I'm especially excited," Heistad said, "that the program project grant will allow several superb investigators to work together. Francis Miller, Neal Weintraub, Frank Faraci, Curt Sigmund, Beverly Davidson and Steven Lentz are all outstanding young independent investigators, and they will be collaborating with world-class senior investigators like Art Spector and Larry Oberley here at the UI."

The Council of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute wrote that "the program participants have a long history of fruitful collaboration and are superbly qualified to direct the research proposals." The grant was recommended for funding for five years "with the highest level of enthusiasm."

"We are very proud of Dr. Heistad's exceptional leadership in developing this very competitive program that will continue a unique and long tradition of seminal research in the study of atherosclerosis at the University of Iowa Cardiovascular Research Center," says Francois M. Abboud, M.D., director of the UI Cardiovascular Research Center and professor and head of the UI department of internal medicine.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.