LEXINGTON, Kentucky (November 17, 2022) — A University of Kentucky researcher has received a prestigious honor recognizing his decades of work in the field of cardiovascular health.
Alan Daugherty, Ph.D., D.Sc., has been named the 2022 George Lyman Duff Memorial Lecturer at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions.
Daugherty is the Gill Foundation Chair in Preventive Cardiology, Director of the Saha Cardiovascular Research Center and Saha Aortic Center, Chair of the Department of Physiology, and Associate Vice President of Research Facilities.
Daugherty’s research focuses primarily on the molecular mechanisms of human vascular disease. Since arriving in the UK in 1997, her laboratory, in collaboration with Lisa Cassis, Ph.D., Vice President for Research and Professor of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, has focused on the role of the renin- angiotensin in atherosclerosis and aortic aneurysms.
Angiotensinogen, a protein primarily formed by the liver, is the unique precursor of the renin-angiotensin system, which plays a vital role in blood pressure regulation.
The Duff Lecture was established in 1956 by the Society for the Study of Arteriosclerosis in memory of Duff, one of Canada’s most distinguished pathologists and medical educators. The conference is sponsored by the Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB), on which Daugherty served as chairman of the council for two years and editor of the ATVB Journal for 10 years.
“This is the oldest consulting awards conference I have been associated with at the AHA. It has been delivered by very eminent scientists, including Nobel laureates. So being selected to give the conference by a committee of my peers was very special,” Daugherty said.
His lecture, “Angiotensinogen as a Therapeutic Target for Vascular Disease,” he explained, “was a brief summary of the road Lisa Cassis and I started many years ago when we genetically engineered the angiotensinogen in mice and demonstrated interesting phenotypes, some expected and some not.
Further studies led to clinical trials and two drug-developing companies, now in late-stage development, to deplete the protein.
“We have now realized that this drug therapy could be effective for a range of vascular diseases, including atherosclerosis and aortic aneurysms,” Daugherty said.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, atherosclerotic heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Aortic aneurysms can cause life-threatening bleeding or sudden death, and there are currently no drugs to directly treat the disease or prevent the growth of an aneurysm.
The AHA’s mission is to improve the lives of all Americans through innovative research that impacts treatment guidelines, education, and policy. Daugherty has been an affiliate and has held numerous positions with the AHA since 1993, from member of the Missouri Affiliate Peer Review Committee to chair of the Oversight Advisory Committee for Strategic Fellowships with the Center national of the organization.
“The AHA has had a major impact on my professional life. They provided me with research support at the very beginning of my career, were essential to my academic survival at specific stages, and more recently provided substantial funding for Cassis and myself to collaborate with colleagues. from Baylor College of Medicine,” Daugherty said.
In 2018, the AHA awarded the UK and Baylor Research Partnership $3.7 million to study aortic disease. The funding supported the work of the UK-BCM Aortopathy Research Center study on the impact of sex differences in aortic disease.
“The AHA has also funded many graduate students and fellows in my lab,” Daugherty said. “It is also the organization that has deeply involved me in many volunteer efforts. All of these forums have been very helpful for my professional development and networking.
Daugherty’s active funding includes principal investigator and co-investigator awards totaling $12.5 million. He has over 400 publications with over 27,000 citations.