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University of Kentucky Honored with Award from the American Heart Association

LEXINGTON The American Heart Association awarded a research partnership, of $3.7 million to study aortic disease, to the University of Kentucky (UK) and Baylor College of Medicine. Only four teams nationwide received the honor, which coincides with the establishment of the American Heart Association’s Vascular Research Disease Network.

“Our Association is excited about this newly funded research network targeting vascular diseases,” says Joey Maggard, executive director of the Lexington division of the American Heart Association. “The American Heart Association is able to continue to fund such cutting-edge, academic research facility-based projects like this one right here in Central Kentucky because of the ongoing generous donations in support of our mission.”

The focus of the grant, which will underwrite the work of the UK-BCM Aortopathy Research Center (UK-BCM ARC), is on the impact of sex differences related to aortic diseases.

At the UK College of Medicine, two research programs will be launched during this partnership. Alan Daugherty, PhD, DSc, who serves as chair of the department of physiology, as well as director of the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center in the College of Medicine and UK associate vice president for research, will lead the first. His project will investigate how sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogens, impact development of thoracic aortic disease in mouse models. The second will be led by Lisa Cassis, PhD, professor of pharmacology and nutritional sciences and vice president for research at UK. Through it, a team will explore how sex chromosomes affect the development and progression of aortic diseases in both thoracic and abdominal aortas using unique mouse models in which sex chromosomes are manipulated.

“The study of vascular disease is a vitally important enterprise, as its prevalence is expected to increase dramatically as our population ages,” states Daugherty. “The work of the UK-BCM brings together two institutes that have established records of innovations in aortic disease research at all levels, and we’re delighted that the AHA has acknowledged our expertise with this grant.”