Symposium Targets Hypertension, Kidney Disease

January 28, 2004

Nick Marinello
Phone: (504) 865-5714

Lee Hamm and L. Gabriel Navar Lee Hamm and L. Gabriel Navar will be the first to admit that hypertension and kidney disease are not topics that set the general public--or even the academic community--on fire. In many ways the illnesses--and their interrelationship--are like the proverbial 2,000-pound elephant that nobody talks about.

More than 50 million Americans suffer from hypertension, and research shows that kidney disease is often closely linked to high blood pressure.

This is particularly true in the Southeastern United States, especially in Louisiana. Hamm and Navar, codirectors of the Tulane Hypertension and Renal Center of Excellence, are hoping that this month's presidential symposium will help in getting the word on this less-than-sexy topic out to the Tulane and New Orleans communities.

The symposium, which is entitled "The Epidemic of Hypertension and Kidney Disease," will take place on Jan. 28 at both the downtown and uptown campuses and will bring in three leading experts from the kidney, hypertension and cardiovascular fields.

Robert Alpern, dean of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School; Josephine Briggs, director of the Division of Kidney, Urology and Hematology at the National Institutes of Health; and Jean-Marc Lalouel, professor of human genetics at the University of Utah, will deliver both scientific presentations and less technical addresses for the public. Smaller breakout sessions also are planned.

"The main thing we hope to accomplish is to heighten the awareness in the academic community and the public about cardiovascular disease in our state and community," says Navar, chair of physiology. "Kidney disease is not as glamorous as other disorders and many people don't associate cardiovascular disease with kidney disease."

While the connection between hypertension and renal disorders has been postulated for the last 40 years, it is only within the last decade that scientific evidence has conclusively linked the two. The diverse backgrounds of the speakers are emblematic of the diversity needed to address the complexities involved in the interaction of the cardiovascular and renal systems. More than 40 Tulane researchers from a number of disciplines are involved in ongoing research at the center.

The primary departments involved are the Department of Physiology, the Department of Epidemiology and the nephrology section of the Department of Medicine. The pediatric nephrology group and pharmacology department also are playing a role.

"It is a huge research advantage to have a multidisciplinary approach to such a complex disorder," says Hamm, a professor of medicine. "One of the virtues of Tulane is that we have such strength in each of these areas."

If the presidential symposium can entice other researchers to join in, so much the better. "We would love to get investigators that have research interests that may be relevant to hypertension and kidney disease to think about the importance of this topic and perhaps the applicability of their own resources to this area," says Hamm.

The Hypertension and Renal Center of Excellence, which opened in 2001, received a $10.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health in fall 2002 to expand research by developing junior faculty in both clinical and basic research. Research projects entitled "The Role of Genetic Polymophisms in the Epoxygenase Pathway Enzymes in Hypertension" are not likely to be the subject of chit-chat around the watercooler, but Hamm and Navar are encouraged by the public's growing awareness of the basic issues involved.

"It is a lot easier to get the public's attention on razzle-dazzle new stuff like genetics," says Navar. "But people have now started to realize the significance of kidney disease as it relates to cardiovascular disease and that these disorders affect a large percentage of the population."

See the symposium website for detailed information about the program.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000