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$13 million federal grant for research into vascular disease awarded to Weill Cornell

NEW YORK (Jan. 16, 2008) -- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has awarded another $13 million grant to the Center of Vascular Biology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City for biomedical research into vascular disease -- specifically atherosclerosis and thrombosis, which are major risk factors for coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke.

The Program Project Grant awarded to Drs. Katherine and David Hajjar represents a renewal of five ongoing projects that have already made major contributions -- elucidating the biology of cells of the artery wall, the blood cells with which they interact, and the principal cellular and genetic changes that take place in arteries that predispose them to the formation of plaque and blood clots.

The projects will continue investigations of the interactions between blood cells and vessels, testing the hypothesis that mediators -- substances including nitrogen oxides, reactive oxygen species and growth factors -- regulate blood-vessel cell activity and plaque formation, and that atherosclerosis acts like a blood clot, forming a "response to injury."

"Perhaps the greatest strength of Weill Cornell's Vascular Biology Program, which began 17 years ago, is its record of high-quality, collaborative scientific interactions and outstanding scientists who trained in this Center over the years. The complementary scientific strengths and discrete research talents of our investigators create effective research synergies and enhance the scope of our research goals," says Dr. David P. Hajjar, executive vice provost and senior executive vice dean of Weill Cornell Medical College, and dean and Frank H.T. Rhodes Distinguished Professor of Cardiovascular Biology and Genetics at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences.

In 1995, Weill Cornell Medical College established a Center of Vascular Biology headed by Dr. David Hajjar. Institutional funds in excess of $5 million were designated for capital improvements, equipment and faculty development to support the program.

The five NHLBI Program Project Grant projects include the following:

  • Dr. Aaron J. Marcus (Medicine) leads a study of CD39 NTPDase1. The goal is to understand the critical role of the compound as the prime regulator of blood fluidity and thrombosis.

  • Dr. Katherine A. Hajjar (Cell Biology) leads a study of the stress response in vascular cells of Annexin 2, a receptor that mediates the breakdown of a blood clot, as it relates to atherosclerosis.

  • Dr. Barbara L. Hempstead (Medicine) leads a study on the role of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in the promotion of blood-vessel formation in heart-attack patients.

  • Dr. Steven S. Gross (Pharmacology) leads a study of mitochondria (a kind of cellular power plant) in the function and dysfunction of eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthase), an enzyme that relaxes the smooth muscle in blood vessels.

  • Dr. David P. Hajjar (Biochemistry & Pathology) leads a study on the activation of the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX) in atherosclerosis by nitrogen oxide and the impact of this activation on atherogenesis (plaque formation).

By the end of this 20-year program in 2011, it is hoped that the array of molecular links that define atherogenesis and thrombosis will have been identified.


Contact: Andrew Klein
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College

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