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Release: Oct. 11, 2002

UI researcher receives award for contributions to hypertension research

A University of Iowa researcher has been awarded the Harry Goldblatt Award in Cardiovascular Research from the American Heart Association (AHA).

Robin L. Davisson, Ph.D., University of Iowa assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology, accepted the award at the AHA Council for High Blood Pressure Research Award Luncheon at its annual fall conference in Florida last month.

The award recognizes a new investigator working in hypertension that demonstrates promise in making a significant contribution to cardiovascular research.

"It's a great honor to receive such a prestigious award named after such an important cardiovascular researcher like Harry Goldblatt," Davisson said.

Davisson received the award for her discovery of a new model for studying preeclampsia in women.

Preeclampsia is a disorder in which a woman develops hypertension (high blood pressure) and renal disease in the last trimester of pregnancy. It affects between 6 and 10 percent of all pregnancies and, if not treated, can lead to eclampsia, a condition that can result in coma or death.

Researchers have known about preeclampsia for thousands of years, as ancient Egyptians described the condition in hieroglyphics, Davisson said. However, preeclampsia has been hard to understand, due to a lack of comparable animal models to study.

"We discovered a mouse model that mimics almost exactly what happens in humans with preeclampsia," Davisson said.

The mice, in their last trimester of pregnancy, also show increased blood pressure and similar symptoms as women with preeclampsia. The new model may lead to a better understanding of what causes preeclampsia and how to treat the condition. Davisson's study was published in the February supplemental issue of the journal Hypertension.

Davisson noted that graduate student Darren Hoffmann was a key player in carrying out the studies.

Davisson received her bachelor's degree in biology and psychology in 1988, her master's degree in psychology in 1991, and her Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1994, all from the UI. She also holds a faculty appointment in radiation oncology.

Other recent awards for Davisson include the 2002 Young Scholars Award from the American Society of Hypertension and Monarch Pharmaceuticals and the 2002 Young Investigator Award in Regulatory and Integrative Physiology from the American Physiological Society.

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