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University of Iowa News Release


June 6, 2007

UI Receives $10 Million To Study Brain Systems Regulating Blood Pressure

A multidisciplinary University of Iowa research program has received a five-year, $10 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the regulation of blood pressure in essential hypertension and the mechanisms causing hypertension associated with obesity. The award to the Center on Functional Genomics of Hypertension in the Cardiovascular Research Center was effective June 1.

With this latest funding, the program, previously known as a Specialized Center of Research on the Genetics of Hypertension, has received more than $42 million to date in NIH support.

Curt Sigmund, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and molecular physiology and biophysics in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and director of the Center on Functional Genomics of Hypertension, is principal investigator of the program, which was initiated in 1990 by the late Michael J. Brody, Ph.D., renewed in 1996 by Allyn Mark, M.D., the Roy J. Carver Professor of Medicine, and renewed again in 2001 by Sigmund.

"The program is a collaborative effort among researchers in different departments and colleges at the UI and is built upon the successes of its predecessors," said Sigmund.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) remains a serious health problem worldwide, particularly in Western societies where the incidence of hypertension and obesity-associated hypertension continues to rise. The new research program aims to make fundamental discoveries in hypertension and obesity-associated hypertension that will improve human health.

The researchers will explore how two important signaling hormones, angiotensin and leptin, act in the brain to control blood pressure and body weight regulation, and how abnormal signaling may promote hypertension and obesity-associated hypertension.

The research program is composed of three projects complemented by two scientific cores providing expertise in neuroanatomy and genetics. Sigmund, Mark and Kamal Rahmouni, Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, are lead investigators. Program co-investigators include Alan Kim Johnson, Ph.D., the F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Pharmacology; Val Sheffield, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator; Baoli Yang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology; and Martin Cassell, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and cell biology. In all, the program involves researchers from seven departments in two colleges at the UI and investigators at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, NY.

"The multidisciplinary approach and teamwork between researchers with expertise in genetics, molecular biology, physiology, neuroscience and pharmacology is a distinctive strength of the program, which contributed to the NIH's decision to fund our program," Sigmund said.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT: Jennifer Brown, 319-335-9917

PHOTO: A web-quality photo of Sigmund is available at For a high-resolution image, contact Jennifer Brown at