Kenneth E. Bernstein, MD, distinguished service professor of pathology at Emory University School of Medicine, is co-recipient of the 2005 Novartis Award in hypertension research from the American Heart Association (AHA). Dr. Bernstein is world renowned for groundbreaking discoveries that have transformed scientific knowledge about the link between kidneys, blood pressure and cardiovascular function. Barry Brenner, MD, PhD, one of the world's leading nephrologists and formerly chief of nephrology at Brigham & Women's Hospital, is co-recipient of the award.
The Novartis Award is given annually to honor individuals for contributions to hypertension, vascular disease and cardiovascular disease. The presentation was made on September 23 in Washington, D.C. at the AHA's 59th Annual Fall Conference and Scientific Sessions of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research.
This marks the second year in a row that the Novartis Award has been won by an Emory School of Medicine faculty member and the only time in the award's 40-year history that an institution has received it two years in a row. Last year's co-recipient was cardiologist David Harrison, MD, Emory professor of medicine and director of the Division of Cardiology. Dr. Harrison was recognized for his breakthrough discoveries about the biological processes underlying blood vessel injuries that lead to strokes and heart attacks. In addition, Emory cardiologist Kathy Griendling, PhD, won the American Heart Association 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award in basic science in recognition of her work on a family of enzymes that plays a significant role in cardiovascular disease.
"These School of Medicine faculty are superb representatives of Emory's international leadership in scientific and clinical discovery," said Thomas J. Lawley, MD, dean of the Emory University School of Medicine. "We are extremely proud of their numerous accomplishments and of the vital medical advances they have enabled."
"In the past two years faculty have received three of the most prestigious cardiovascular awards in the world," said Douglas Morris, MD, director of the Emory Heart Center. "This is an exceptional recognition of the outstanding and groundbreaking research being conducted by Emory's cardiology faculty. The discoveries made at Emory are continuing to have a significant and long-lasting impact on laboratory science and patient care."
Over the past two decades Dr. Bernstein and his colleagues have been responsible for a number of key discoveries that have transformed scientific knowledge about the link between the kidneys, blood pressure, and cardiovascular function. In 1989 his laboratory was one of two in the world to clone and characterize angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), which controls the production of angiotensin II, the link between the kidneys and blood pressure control. His most significant discovery followed, when he cloned and characterized the gene for the angiotensin II receptor, which has become known as the AT1 receptor (Nature, 1991). This receptor has since been shown to be responsible for virtually all of the physiologic and cardiovascular effects of angiotensin II.
"Angiotensin II is the central component of the complex and multifactorial process of blood pressure control," Dr. Bernstein said, "and in the middle is the angiotensin II receptor, with its many effects on smooth muscle, the heart, the kidney, the adrenal glands, the brain, and the gut, all of which work coordinately to maintain blood pressure. By understanding and cloning this receptor we uncovered a powerful tool for studying the multisystem process of blood pressure regulation."