Pioneering work in hypertension brings science honor

April 30, 2012 5:45 AM

Arthur Nead

For his pioneering contributions to understanding hypertension, Tulane researcher Luis Gabriel Navar has received the Walter B. Cannon Award as an outstanding scientist in physiology, a national honor named for a physician whose work set the stage for current blood pressure research.

Hypertension researcher Luis Gabriel Navar

At the Tulane Renal and Hypertension Center of Excellence, Luis Gabriel Navar leads researchers in their blood pressure studies. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Navar, who joined the Tulane faculty in 1988, received the award from the American Physiological Society at its annual meeting on April 21 and presented a lecture there. He is professor and chair of the Tulane Department of Physiology and co-director of the Tulane Renal and Hypertension Center of Excellence at the Tulane School of Medicine.

In his lecture, Navar revisited Cannon’s groundbreaking book The Wisdom of the Body, first published in 1932. The book “has to do with survival mechanisms that protect from deficits, whether of food, water or salt,” Navar said. “So we have this dilemma in modern society: The body is more geared to conserving than it is to taking care when there is excess.” 

Navar’s presentation highlighted basic physiological studies that are being applied to actual patient-oriented work. “And that’s where our work has been significant over the past few years, because we study the role of the kidney and of a very important endocrine system, the renin-angiotensin system, in the development of high blood pressure,” he said.

Since 2002, when the Tulane Hypertension and Renal Center was established with funding from the National Institutes of Health, researchers from various departments within Tulane have collaborated under Navar’s guidance on studies of the causes and treatment of hypertension, a major health issue in Louisiana and the Southeastern United States.

Studies by Navar and colleagues have revealed much about hypertension, including the development of more accurate methods for assessing whether medications are having the desired effect in patients, which is vital to preempting serious complications of the disorder such as organ damage.

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