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Section of Atherosclerosis

Houston, Texas

BCM faculty, staff and trainees are the heart of the organization.
Section of Atherosclerosis and Vascular Medicine
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The Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

Mission: To identify and implement new preventive and therapeutic strategies to reduce pain, suffering and death from cardiovascular disease

The Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, directed by Christie M. Ballantyne, M.D., is one of the major sites for clinical investigation within the Section of Atherosclerosis and Vascular Medicine. It was created in 2000 as a partnership between Baylor College of Medicine and the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center at The Methodist Hospital. One of only a handful of such entities in the United States, the center is gaining national prominence through its three primary activities: research, patient care, and education.

Research

In clinical and translational research, investigators at the center use a comprehensive approach directed at improving both risk assessment and risk reduction. Utilizing studies that apply basic science research to the bedside, physicians search for better and more effective therapies to prevent heart attack and stroke from vascular disease, the number one killer of Americans today, accounting for more than 1.4 million deaths each year (American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2006 Update. Circulation 2006;113:e85-e151). With more than $2 million in annual funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association, several important studies and clinical trials are under way at the Center:

  • The Maria and Alando J. Ballantyne, MD, Atherosclerosis Clinical Research Laboratory serves as the core laboratory for the NIH-funded Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities, or ARIC study, including more than 15,000 middle-aged individuals, to identify new biomarkers that predict heart disease, stroke, and development of diabetes. An NIH-funded multidisciplinary research team examining optimal therapy for peripheral artery disease with advanced MRI and biomarkers for inflammation and thrombosis.
  • New grants to study the links between obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Research to identify genes regulating lipid metabolism, progression of coronary artery disease, and response to statin therapy.
  • New drugs targeting squalene synthase to lower LDL-C beyond statin therapy
  • Antisense apo B oligonucleotide therapy to lower apo B and atherogenic lipoproteins
  • Inhibition of the endocannabinoid system blocking CB1 to reduce obesity and improve metabolic parameters and effects on carotid artery disease (AUDITOR), cardiovascular events (CRESCENDO), and prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus (RAPSODI)
  • Evaluation of new combinations of lipid-altering drugs to provide optimal treatment of dyslipidemia
  • Gene therapy with hypoxia-inducible factor 1α to increase angiogenesis for treat­ment of severe peripheral artery disease
  • Novel approaches to raising HDL-C with CETP inhibition and artificial HDLs
  • Identification of new biomarkers to predict heart attack, stroke, and diabetes

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Patient Care

The Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention also offers outstanding patient care for cardiovascular conditions and is nationally recognized for providing consultation services for lipids and atherosclerosis. The Lipid Metabolism and Atherosclerosis Clinic conducted by Drs. Ballantyne, Peter Jones, Vijay Nambi, and Salim Virani continues to draw referrals from throughout Texas and the Southwest along with international patients. Drs. Ballantyne, and Jones have received numerous awards for quality improvement efforts as well as recognition as "Best Doctors in America, Central Region."

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Education

The center is committed in its educational efforts to help students, researchers, and doctors in the area of preventive cardiology. In addition to training rotating students and fellows, the center also supports the yearlong training of one fellow in clinical and translational research through the Lipid and Atherosclerosis Training Program. The center has established a leading national role in education for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and to improve the quality of patient care, for example, through its development of the award-winning website www.lipidsonline.org.

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