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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 8, 2004

UI Researchers Receive Funding For Cardiovascular Research Projects

Researchers in the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine recently received funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for interdisciplinary cardiovascular research projects.

Ronald Lauer, M.D., professor of pediatrics, received $3.9 million for his project titled, "Arterial Endothelial Function - An Epidemiologic Study."

This grant continues Lauer and his associates' work in the Muscatine Study of cardiovascular risk factor research. This project began 30 years ago and has followed the health of a large number of Muscatine residents to determine what factors lead to heart attack and stroke using image analysis techniques such as ultrasound and X-ray CT (cardiothoracic) imaging.

"We have examined the children and adolescents' cholesterol, blood pressure, and BMI (Body Mass Index) levels to see if these results are predictive of heart disease in later life," Lauer said.

Lauer and his colleagues have found that children with the highest levels of blood pressure are more likely to have hypertension as adults. Similarly, children with high cholesterol are more likely to develop manifestations of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in later life.

Patricia Davis, M.D., associate professor of neurology, received $2.6 million for her project titled, "Epidemiology of Carotid Artery Atherosclerosis In Youth." The project, which has been funded for four years, aims to study associations between carotid artery wall thickness, aortic wall thickness and cardiovascular risk factors in the offspring of the original Muscatine Study group using ultrasound imaging.

"Using ultrasound, we are trying to detect the earliest manifestations of atherosclerosis in adolescents and young adults and look at the relationship to subclinical and clinical cardiovascular disease in their parents," Davis said.

Robert Tomanek, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and cell biology, received $1.5 million for his project titled, "Regulation of Coronary Vessel Assembly and Growth."

Tomanek and his colleagues, Gina Schatteman, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise science, and Wei Zheng, Ph.D., research scientist in anatomy and cell biology, will study the formation of the coronary vessels during development. They will conduct experiments using microscopic and micro-CT imaging to determine the specific roles and interplay of growth factors that dictate the assembly of the coronary blood vessels during prenatal and postnatal development.

"The findings of our project will not only contribute to our understanding of the regulation of coronary vessel formation during development, but will establish mechanisms that may be useful for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases," Tomanek said.

In each of the three newly awarded projects, Milan Sonka, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering in the UI College of Engineering, is in charge of the methods for quantitative medical image analysis.

Sonka, who began medical image analysis in 1990 after coming to the UI, has been involved in vascular ultrasound image analysis with Lauer and Davis for seven years. His software has been licensed and used in more than 70 research institutions around the world.

Noting that the image analysis is "an important part of the overall picture," Sonka stressed the significance of the interdisciplinary collaboration involved in all three projects.

"For an engineer, the ultimate reward is to see novel theoretical ideas transformed into reality. From this viewpoint, the engineering-medicine collaboration allows us to accomplish this in the field that may be of ultimate importance to all of us," Sonka said.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at http://www.uihealthcare.com.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, (319) 335-8032, david-pedersen@uiowa.edu. Writer: Christine Nicholson