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Yale Leaders in $6 Million International Effort to Fight Hypertension


New Haven, Conn. — Leading researchers in Switzerland, France, Mexico, and at Yale School of Medicine, are pooling efforts under a five-year, $6 million grant from the Leducq Foundation to pinpoint the kidney’s role in high blood pressure.

Hypertension affects more than one billion people worldwide and is one of the most important risk factors for cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, myocardial infarction, sudden death, and kidney disease. The exact causes remain unknown.

The new “Transatlantic Network on Hypertension—Renal Salt Handling in the Control of Blood Pressure” is a collaborative effort to understand how the underlying mechanisms resulting in elevated blood pressure depend upon the role of the kidney in managing the level of salt in the body.

Leading the team at Yale are Steven Hebert, M.D., professor and chair of cellular and molecular physiology and the American coordinator of the project, and Richard Lifton, M.D., professor and chair of genetics.

“Breakthroughs in understanding and treating this complex and often devastating disease will come from collaborations among top scientists from around the world,” Hebert said. “The grant from the Leducq Foundation unites leaders in salt metabolism and hypertension from Europe and North American to understand the role of deranged salt handling by the kidney in causing and maintaining high blood pressure.”

“The Leducq program,” Lifton added, “ uniquely allows us to bring together a ‘dream team’ of investigators around the world with diverse expertise in physiology, genetics, and clinical investigation to combine forces to tackle this important medical problem.”

The European coordinator of the project is Professor Bernard Rossier of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, who will direct pharmacology and toxicology researchers at Lausanne and Lausanne University Hospital. Also part of the network are researchers from the Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, under the direction of Professor Gerardo Gamba, and a team led by Xavier Jeunemaître, M.D., of Hospital Georges Pompidou and the College de France in Paris.

The transatlantic team will study the metabolism of sodium, potassium, and calcium and their influence on blood pressure. They will focus on the ion channels expressed in the kidney and on genetic factors that lead to a sensitivity or resistance to salt related hypertension. The goal is to identify new therapeutic targets for hypertension. In addition, the network will integrate their expertise in areas of population genetics and animal models of hypertension and combine approaches from molecular biology, proteomics, and physiology.

The Leducq Foundation funding will enable the group to develop a network of Ph.D. and postdoctoral researchers within the participating institutions; develop a platform of exchange via the internet for training, videoconferencing, real time laboratory discussions, and other exchanges, and develop a centralized database that will allow easy access to the tools, instruments, materials, and other resources that the various teams will share.

Jean and Sylviane Leducq established the Leducq Foundation in 1996 to support cardiovascular disease research. One of the foundation’s goals is to promote collaboration between researchers in North America and Europe. Toward this end, it began in 2004 to accept applications for its Transatlantic Networks of Excellence in Cardiovascular Research Program.


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