Proceedings of the High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions
As Program Chair of the 2012 High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions sponsored by the American Heart Association Councils for High Blood Pressure Research and Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease, it is my pleasure to report that this year’s meeting was both well attended (755 attendees) and scientifically productive. The conference was held on September 19 to 22 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. The 94 platform talks and 488 poster presentations given this year dealt with the latest developments in our understanding of the causes of hypertension; its relationship to stroke, cardiac disease, and kidney dysfunction; and the most effective means for detecting, evaluating, and treating high blood pressure. The conference continues to be the premier scientific meeting on hypertension in the world, and the diversity of attendees reflected that fact: nearly one-third of participants were from countries other than the United States. This was despite the fact that we had a reduced number of participants from Japan, typically one of our largest contingents from overseas, because of a conflict with their own Society’s meeting.
This year, for the first time, the meeting was preceded by 2 concurrent workshops on special topics suggested by Council members and selected by the Program Committee. One was entitled “Epigenetics and Hypertension: Beyond the Genome” and was Chaired by David Harrison, MD, from Vanderbilt University, and Zorina Galis, PhD, who is Chief of the Vascular Biology and Hypertension Branch at National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The second was entitled “Unifying Theories of Hypertension: Past, Present, and Emerging” and was Chaired by John Osborn, PhD, from the University of Minnesota Medical School, and Theodore Kurtz, MD, from the University of California-San Francisco. Both featured excellent attendance, stimulating presentations, and wide-ranging discussions of important issues related to the genetic, molecular, and integrative aspects of blood pressure regulation.
The regular conference program started on Wednesday evening as usual with the Keynote Address. Typically, the presentation describes clinical or basic research on a topic of wide and pressing interest to investigators in the field of hypertension. This year, however, in light of the general concerns about prospects for future funding for hypertension research, the Program Committee asked Dr Galis to speak on the topic “Investing in High Blood Pressure Research—an NIH Perspective.” Aside from her experiences at National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute since 2011, Dr Galis had a long and highly productive career as a National Institutes of Health–funded cardiovascular researcher. Thus, she was able to speak on the topic of National Institutes of Health funding for research in a manner both authoritative and clearly comprehensible to her audience. Needless to say, her talk was very well attended and became a common theme of conversations throughout the conference.
The scientific sessions proper were led off later Wednesday evening with a poster session composed of 166 presentations consisting entirely of abstracts submitted by trainees. This special session was one of several features of the conference designed to highlight the value of the extensive attendance and participation of trainees and young investigators in a variety of capacities at the meeting and in our Council. Other aspects of the conference designed especially for trainees and young investigators were 4 “how-to” sessions conducted early Thursday and Friday mornings. These were constructed to provide detailed and practical advice on how to implement important techniques used commonly in hypertension research. Topics (and presenters) included the following: calcium imaging in blood vessels (Dr William Jackson, Michigan State), genetic manipulation in rats (Dr Howard Jacob, Medical College of Wisconsin), targeting the brain with viral vectors and nanotechnology (Dr Matt Zimmerman, University of Nebraska), and chronic recording of sympathetic nerve activity (Dr Sean Stocker, Pennsylvania State University).
General sessions on Thursday through Saturday covered a broad array of topics concerning the causes and consequences of hypertension. As usual, areas such as the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, vascular biology, and kidney function were especially well represented. The role of inflammation and immune mechanisms in the pathophysiology of hypertension was a common thread among many of the sessions. Particularly worth highlighting is a new special session that was held on Friday morning: all talks in the session were selected by representatives of the Council on the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease to draw attention to the latest research linking kidney dysfunction to the development of hypertension. Also noteworthy were sessions on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning devoted entirely to talks concerning research on the diagnosis, management, and pathophysiology of hypertension in human patients. It was gratifying to see these sessions generate substantial interest from basic scientists, as well as clinicians.
A major highlight of the conference is the opportunity to recognize outstanding hypertension investigators with prestigious awards, lectureships, and travel fellowships. This year, we were fortunate to have an especially outstanding, qualified, and deserving group of colleagues to recognize. These are described below, but special mention must be made of this year’s recipients of the Excellence Award in Hypertension Research (formerly the Novartis Award). This prestigious award is given only to individuals whose research had a major and sustained impact on the field and is the highest honor bestowed by the Council. This year, the Award honored 2 world-renowned investigators, each of whose research has produced paradigm shifts in our way of thinking about the causes of hypertension: Dr Robert Carey, who is the David A. Harrison III Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Dean Emeritus at the University of Virginia, and Dr L. Gabriel Navar, who is Chair of the Department of Physiology and Director of the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Hypertension and Renal Biology at Tulane University Health Sciences Center (Figure 1).
The Lifetime Achievement Award is named in honor of Drs Irvine Page and Alva Bradley, who established the National Foundation for High Blood Pressure Research in 1945. That organization was the precursor of the Council on High Blood Pressure Research (CHBPR). The 2012 Page-Bradley Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr James Sowers, who is a Professor of Medicine, Physiology, and Pharmacology, and Director of the Division of Endocrinology and of the Center for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Research, at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The award recognizes both his service to the CHBPR and a career of outstanding achievements in the field of hypertension research (Figure 2).
The Harriet Dustan Award recognizes investigator role models who have made consistently important contributions to the field of hypertension. The award was established to honor the memory of Dr Harriet Dustan, an internationally renowned clinician-scientist who for many years was a major figure and leader in the CHBPR and the American Heart Association. The 2012 award was given to Dr Lisa Cassis, Professor and Chair, Department of Molecular and Biomedical Pharmacology at the University of Kentucky (Figure 3).
Other recognized highlights of the CHBPR meeting each year are 3 lectures named after outstanding hypertension researchers whose careers had a formative impact on the field. The Lewis K. Dahl Memorial Lecture was established in 1988 by the CHBPR in honor of his pioneering work on the relationships among salt, the kidney, and hypertension and for establishing a widely used animal model of salt-sensitive hypertension. This year’s lecturer was Dr Stephanie Watts, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Assistant Dean of the Graduate School at Michigan State University (Figure 4). The Arthur C. Corcoran Memorial Lecture was established in 1977 in honor of Arthur Curtis Corcoran’s key leadership in the application of renal clearance methods to the study of hypertension in patients and experimental animals. The lecture was presented by Dr Robin L. Davisson, the Andrew Dickson White Professor of Physiology at Cornell University (Figure 5). The Donald Seldin Lecture, supported by the Kidney in Cardiovascular Diseases Council, honors the impact of the work of Dr Donald Seldin, whose research interests over a long and distinguished career included intensive study of the physiological regulatory mechanisms controlling acid-base and potassium balance, the osmolality and volume of body fluids, and the impact of renal disease on these regulatory processes. This year, the Seldin Lecture was presented by Dr Susan E. Quaggin, Associate Professor of Physiology, University of Toronto, and Scientist in the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital (Figure 6).
A particularly important recognition given each year is the Harry Goldblatt New Investigator Award presented to a newly independent investigator doing research work related to hypertension that is judged to have already made a significant contribution to our understanding of the causes and consequences of hypertension. Finalists for this award are selected from ratings of the abstracts submitted for the meeting, as well as overall accomplishments, and the winner is selected by an awards committee based on oral presentations made by the finalists at the meeting. This year, there were 3 excellent finalists: Dr Jussaro do Carmo, from the University of Mississippi, Dr Babbette LaMarca, also from the University of Mississippi, and Dr Yumei Feng, from Tulane University. The 2012 Harry Goldblatt New Investigator Awardee was Dr Jussaro do Carmo (Figure 7).
We were pleased this year to have the opportunity to support so many travel awards for a large number of trainees to attend the conference. Special thanks to the CHBPR, the Council on the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease, the CHBPR Trainee Advocacy Committee, and the Anjinomoto Company of Japan for sponsoring these travel awards. Thanks also to Daiichi-Sankyo for their support of the meeting.
Finally, I thank the members of the Program Committee for all their efforts in putting together an outstanding and truly integrated scientific conference. I also acknowledge with pleasure the tremendous assistance and advice of Dr Rhian Touyz, Chair of the CHBPR, in shaping all aspects of the planning and conduct of the conference, and of Dr Moshe Levi, Chair of the Council on Kidney in Cardiovascular disease. My sincere appreciation goes out to all who contributed to the success of this meeting, but special thanks are owed to Melissa Ariate Jarvis, Veronica Zamora, and other American Heart Association staff members. It goes without saying that there would be no meeting without their efforts at the conference and throughout the year.
The opinions expressed in this editorial are not necessarily those of the editors or of the American Heart Association.
- © 2013 American Heart Association, Inc.