Donald W. Reynolds Foundation awards UT Southwestern $12 million to continue Dallas Heart Study

August 26, 2004

DALLAS - Aug. 26, 2004 - A $12 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas will allow researchers to continue the Dallas Heart Study, a groundbreaking investigation of cardiovascular disease involving thousands of Dallas County residents.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation's two-year grant to the Donald W. Reynolds Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center at UT Southwestern supplements previous foundation grants awarded to UT Southwestern totaling $30 million, bringing total Reynolds Foundation support for UT Southwestern to $42 million.

The Foundation's initial grant created the Donald W. Reynolds Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center in 1999.

The new grant will be used to continue research into the prevention and treatment of heart disease caused by atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the inner lining of the arteries, and by heart enlargement, which can lead to heart failure. Heart failure is the No. 1 cause of mortality in the United States and affects 5 million Americans, with more than 400,000 new cases identified each year. It also is the top cause of hospitalization for adults and accounts for more than $30 billion a year in health-care costs.

Reynolds Center researchers are using molecular and clinical research techniques to examine a large multi-ethnic group of individuals from Dallas County, to develop new biotechnology and to establish a novel training program for scientists-physicians.

Major discoveries by center-affiliated investigators since 1999 include:
  • Identification of key chemical signals that change a stem cell into a heart cell, which may lead to the ability to produce heart cells in the lab to repair a failing heart
  • Discovery of chemical signals needed for normal heart development, as well as signals involved in abnormal growth of the heart, which may lead to new drugs to prevent heart failure
  • Discovery of genes that protect the body from bad cholesterol and gene defects associated with early heart attacks

    Nearly 6,000 Dallas County residents have participated in the Dallas Heart Study, and now researchers are asking those participants to come forward to take part in the next phase of the project.

    "There are people out there who participated in the Dallas Heart Study that we just can't find now, for a variety of reasons," said Dr. Helen Hobbs, director of the Reynolds Center. "We need as many of these participants as possible to continue into the next phase of this research."

    While the Dallas Heart Study is not looking for new recruits, past participants who wish to continue should call the project hotline at 214-648-4555 for more information.

    The new grant will continue to support genetic studies, led by Dr. Hobbs, of heart disease-related risk factors using data from the Dallas Heart Study. It also will support continuation of molecular research aimed at preventing and treating harmful enlargement of the heart, led by Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology.

    Another project is aimed at discovering whether stem cells from the heart or bone marrow could repair an injured heart. That study is led by Dr. Daniel Garry, associate professor of internal medicine.

    The grant also will support an experiment that draws on neighborhood barbers to increase the detection and treatment of high blood pressure among African-American men, a particularly vulnerable group at high risk for cardiovascular disease. The program is designed to improve awareness, treatment and control of high blood pressure by having the barbers measure it when the customers come in for a haircut.

    Analysis of data from the Dallas Heart Study indicates that African-American men had the highest rate of uncontrolled hypertension, according to Dr. Ronald Victor, chief of hypertension at UT Southwestern and principal investigator of the barbershop study.

    In addition to UT Southwestern, Stanford University received a supplemental one-year grant of $6 million for its Donald W. Reynolds Center, which was established in 2000. In 2003, the foundation awarded four-year grants of $24 million each to Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University to establish centers at those institutions. As part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center program, UT Southwestern researchers are collaborating on various projects with investigators at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of California, San Diego, as well as researchers at the other Reynolds centers.
    The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nev. it is one of the 50 largest private foundations in the United States.

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