Clinical Research Mission:
The Hypertension Vascular Research Clinical facility is a resource for conducting and learning about clinical research in the cardiovascular sciences.
Focused Areas of Clinical Research
Hypertension: Also known as high blood pressure, this disease is often called the "silent killer" because it often has no symptoms. Hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack and kidney disease. The Southeastern region of the United States leads the nation in the prevalence of cardiovascular disease. We evaluate those factors that contribute to the hypertension and seek to control hypertension to limit damage to vital organs such as heart, brain and kidney.
Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction: Normal blood pressure regulation involves precise balance of various blood pressure control systems under the regulation of the autonomic nervous system. Impairments in the nervous system reflexes that regulate pressure during changes in posture may lead to instability of blood pressure, resulting in pressure that is either too high or too low. Alterations in autonomic function for control of the cardiovascular system are key risk factors for heart disease and stroke and may be associated with aging, hypertension, heart failure and sleep apnea.
Vascular Disease: Poor circulation, which may involve both arteries and veins, is most commonly thought of as "hardening of the arteries" or atherosclerosis (deposition of fat in the arteries). This condition commonly leads to heart attacks, strokes, damage to the kidneys, leg pain and some times amputations. Vascular disease is a chronic process, beginning very early in life, and its presence may be detected as early as age 30-40, and is not always accompanied by high blood pressure. The changes in the structures of veins can lead to blood clots which may travel to the lungs and other vital organs. In many cases preventable events, and resulting death, may be avoided by early detection and treatment. A number of vascular conditions, i.e. venous insufficiency, lymphedema, contribute to chronic swelling in the extremities, mainly in the legs.
Renal Diseases: High blood pressure damages the kidney and can contribute to a decline kidney function. The kidney is also one of the main organs where inadequate functioning can contribute to development of high blood pressure. Clinical research interests involving the kidney include attempts to understand the regulation of hormonal systems within the kidney that participate in the control of blood pressure, assessment of markers in the urine that may predict renal injury in different disease states and studies using cells isolated from the kidney to study susceptibility of the kidney to salt and oxidative stressors.
Clinical Research Training
Training in diagnostic tests for vascular compliance, central pressures, indices of autonomic function and 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is available. We develop programs for medical students and residents/fellows interested in learning about ongoing clinical research and trials opportunities. Interested undergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral fellows, and transfers are exposed to three areas of clinic activities including: 1) clinical research protocols; 2) data management; and 3) community outreach programs. For graduate students and fellows who have an interest in clinical research, participation includes training sessions for protocol development and implementation, shadowing research coordinators for recruitment and patient scheduling, and experience clinical research legal and ethical aspects. Experience in non-invasive hemodynamic testing of vascular health and autonomic function can also be gained and clinical investigators have access to these tests for patient management and research studies. Finally, under the auspices of the Health on Wheels and COSEHC, trainees have the opportunity to participate in outreach events (health fairs, screening events, community education programs) as part of the support team. We also train students in blood pressure monitoring and health risk assessment.