Feb. 6, 1996
Media Contact: Sarah Goodwin at 404/727-5686, e-mail: sgoodwi@emory.edu

A heart valve covered with an anticalcification compound developed five years ago in Emory cardiology laboratories by John Gott and colleagues is seeing ever widening clinical application. Emory cardiothoracic surgeon Ellis Jones is believed treated the greatest number of bypass patients in the region with the device. Emory worked with Medtronics to market the modified valve.

Is the tissue that lines blood vessel walls along curves under greater stress than tissues that line the "straight-aways?" Are the endothelial cells lining the inside of branching arteries at higher risk for developing atherosclerosis? Emory heart researchers are collaborating with engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology to apply fluid flow mechanics to these questions.

Another group of Emory and Georgia Tech researchers began human testing in 1995 on an experimental technique that may help control irregular cardiac rhythms by altering chaotic patterns in the electrical signals controlling the heart. If successful, the technique could lead to development of a new type of implantable device that would be smaller and apply less electrical energy than the defibrillators now used to correct the erratic heartbeat of atrial fibrillation. The chaos control technique developed by Emory cardiologist Jonathan J. Langberg, Georgia Tech physicist William L. Ditto, Ph.D., and Dr. Mark L. Spano of the Naval Surface Warfare Center is based upon the application of small electrical signals to the heart at carefully chosen points in the heartbeat cycle. The researchers believe the small signals will encourage the heart itself to correct the irregularities.

The International Society for Hypertension in Blacks was founded by hypertension experts at Emory and Morehouse School of Medicine. The group provides forums in which ethnicity and disease research is discussed. The group is committed to determining why blacks have much higher rates of high blood pressure and kidney failure than whites. Researcher Josiah Wilcox is studying heart disease in blacks at the basic science level.

Only in the past few years have researchers begun to associate the behavior of endothelial cells with atherosclerosis - the process whereby plaque clogs arteries and puts persons at risk for heart disease and stroke. Emory Skin Disease Research Center investigator and cardiologist Russell Medford, M.D., Ph.D., has identified a regulatory protein that tells the endothelial cells damaged by oxidation to express vascular cell adhesion molecules (VCAMs). VCAMs are "sticky"adhesion molecules that are supposed to attract circulating white blood cells to help heal the site of the blood vessel's injured lining. Unfortunately, the glut of white blood cells attracted is actually the precursor to plaque formation - and sometimes lethal atherosclerosis. Most significantly, Dr. Medford has learned that one can quiet the expression of this regulatory protein with certain antioxidants, preventing it from urging white blood cells to attach to endothelial cells - and initiate the events which ultimately result in atherosclerotic plaque formation.

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences News and Information at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to hsnews@emory.edu.

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