Harvard scientist gets American Heart Association award for findings of inherited basis for cardiovascular disorders

American Heart Association Meeting Report

November 12, 2018 Categories: Scientific Conferences & Meetings

Embargoed until 5 a.m. CT / 6 a.m. ET on Monday, November 12, 2018

CHICAGO, Nov.12 – The American Heart Association has presented its Joseph A. Vita Award to Sekar Kathiresan, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School in Boston, “for his highly significant discoveries elucidating the inherited basis for a cardiovascular disease, particularly early heart attack, and translating these findings into biological and therapeutic insights.”

Kathiresan received the award on Sunday, November 11, during opening ceremonies of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2018, a premier global exchanges of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians at McCormick Place convention center in Chicago. Association President Ivor Benjamin, M.D., of Milwaukee presented the award citation and honorarium. The award honors the late cardiovascular scientist Dr. Joseph Vita. 

“Dr. Kathiresan has systematically uncovered the genetic basis for heart attack and leveraged this information to discover root causes, inform new therapeutic approaches and identify at-risk individuals,” Benjamin said in presenting the award.

“Studies led by Dr. Kathiresan separated disease non-causal factors such as HDL cholesterol from causal factors – LDL, lipoprotein (a), triglyceride-rich lipoproteins and adiposity,” AHA’s president said. “His work found that individuals who carry mutations of either of two genes, APOC3 or ANGPTL3, rapidly clear triglyceride-rich lipoproteins from the circulation and are protected from heart attack.”

Kathiresan found a pathway to heart attack risk involving stem cell mutations that increase with age and provoke inflammation. He also has created a genetic test to predict heart attack risk and shown that statins and/or a healthy lifestyle can modify risk.

The award winner is director of MGH’s Center for Genomic Medicine, director of the Broad Institute Cardiovascular Disease Initiative and Harvard professor of medicine.

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