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Cardiovascular Research Institute Established at Weill Cornell Medicine

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Cardiologist Dr. Geoffrey Pitt to Lead Institute Designed to Translate Research Discoveries in Cardiovascular Disease from Bench to Bedside

NEW YORK (April 29, 2016) — With the goal of improving heart health for patients worldwide, Weill Cornell Medicine has established the Cardiovascular Research Institute to expand and enhance the institution's basic and translational research activities. Dr. Geoffrey Pitt, a leading cardiologist and scientist, will direct the institute, which will be dedicated to understanding the molecular, cellular and genetic underpinnings of the disease.

Headquartered in the Belfer Research Building, the interdisciplinary Cardiovascular Research Institute will build upon the successes of Weill Cornell Medicine's already robust cardiovascular research activities while unifying them under one research entity. Dr. Pitt will recruit a team of leading scientists to the institute to pursue innovative research that improves treatments and therapies for conditions including coronary artery disease, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, and hypertension. Basic and translational investigators in the institute will complement and collaborate closely with the exceptional clinical cardiology and cardiovascular surgery teams at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, ensuring that laboratory breakthroughs are rapidly applied to the clinic.

Dr. Pitt was recruited to Weill Cornell Medicine from Duke University, where he is currently the director of the Ion Channel Research Unit and a professor of medicine, neurobiology, and pharmacology and cancer biology. He is also an attending cardiologist at Duke University Hospital, caring for patients in its Adult Cardiovascular Genetics Clinic. A distinguished physician-scientist, Dr. Pitt investigates the structure, function and regulation of proteins located on the surface of cells that enable the transmission of electrical signals, called ion channels. His laboratory uses electrophysiology, biochemistry and structural biology approaches to discern how abnormal ion channel function causes diseases such as cardiac arrhythmias, epilepsy and ataxias, which are characterized by a loss of muscle control during voluntary movements.

"Physician-scientists have made critical advances in cardiovascular clinical care that have produced a difference in patients' lives, but we have not yet found a cure for heart disease," said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Weill Chairman of the Weill Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and physician-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. "It is vital that we discover and develop better diagnostic and treatment strategies, and there is no one better than Dr. Pitt to direct these efforts at Weill Cornell Medicine. A proven leader, I have no doubt that he will take us to the next level of excellence in cardiovascular research and care."

"It's a truly exciting opportunity to lead the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine," said Dr. Pitt, who was recruited as the Ida and Theo Rossi Distinguished Professor of Medicine and will have a clinical appointment at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. "Weill Cornell Medicine is uniquely positioned at the forefront of basic and translational research, which is critically important to support and improve patient care. The high-impact science our esteemed investigators will perform at the institute dovetails perfectly with the outstanding care our clinical cardiologists provide to our patients — with the goal of making that care even better."

While research advances achieved in recent decades have transformed the way doctors treat patients with cardiovascular disease, the condition remains the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 17.3 million deaths each year — a number that the American Heart Association expects to swell to more than 23.6 million by 2030.

At the Cardiovascular Research Institute, investigators will use cutting-edge scientific approaches — including precision medicine and stem cell research — to explore the fundamental biology of heart and blood vessel development and function. Researchers will also seek to understand how the structure and function of proteins and the way small molecules interact with larger biological systems are involved in cardiovascular disease. The insights physicians glean from these studies will enable them to develop effective diagnostic strategies and clinical interventions when these systems fail. They will also collaborate with investigators at the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island to mine and analyze data generated from genome sequencing and from patient medical devices to develop more effective treatments.

About Dr. Geoffrey Pitt

Dr. Pitt, a board-certified internist and cardiologist, is a member of the American Heart Association, Biophysical Society, Society for Neuroscience, Cardiac Electrophysiology Society, and the Heart Rhythm Society. He is also an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He currently serves as associate editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation; and is on the Journal of General Physiology's Editorial Advisory Board. Dr. Pitt previously served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, and the Journal of Clinical Investigation, and was an associate editor of Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy and editor for its Education in Cardiovascular Therapy section. He has authored more than 70 peer-reviewed articles and is an ad hoc reviewer for 33 top-tier journals, including the Cell Metabolism, Circulation, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Nature, PNAS, and Science - STKE. He has also reviewed for or served on several national and international study sections, including those of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the American Heart Association.

Dr. Pitt has received numerous awards, including the Harrington Discovery Institute Scholar-Innovator Award (2015), the American Heart Association's Established Investigator Award (2007), the Lewis Katz Cardiovascular Research Prize for a Young Investigator (2006), the Harold and Golden Lamport Award for Excellence in Basic Science Research (2006), and the Irma T. Hirschl Monique Weill-Caulier Trust Research Career Award (2004).

Dr. Pitt received his bachelor's degree in 1984 from Yale University and his medical degree and doctorate in 1993 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He also earned a Master of Science degree in 1987 from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Pitt completed a residency in internal medicine and cardiology fellowship training at Stanford University Hospital in 1995 and 1999, respectively, and a postdoctoral fellowship in 1999 at the Stanford University School of Medicine. After spending two years at Stanford as a research associate in molecular and cellular physiology, Dr. Pitt joined Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons as the Esther Aboodi Assistant Professor of Medicine and as an assistant professor of pharmacology. Dr. Pitt earned a position on Duke's faculty in 2007.

He will begin his appointment at Weill Cornell Medicine on July 1.

Weill Cornell Medicine

Weill Cornell Medicine is committed to excellence in patient care, scientific discovery and the education of future physicians in New York City and around the world. The doctors and scientists of Weill Cornell Medicine — faculty from Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and Weill Cornell Physician Organization — are engaged in world-class clinical care and cutting-edge research that connect patients to the latest treatment innovations and prevention strategies. Located in the heart of the Upper East Side's scientific corridor, Weill Cornell Medicine's powerful network of collaborators extends to its parent university Cornell University; to Qatar, where Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar offers a Cornell University medical degree; and to programs in Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Weill Cornell Medicine faculty provide comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens. Weill Cornell Medicine is also affiliated with Houston Methodist. For more information, visit weill.cornell.edu.

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Bacteria in Immune Cells May Protect Against Chronic Inflammation

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A population of bacteria inhabits human and mouse immune cells and appears to protect the body from inflammation and illness, Weill Cornell Medicine scientists discovered in a new study. The findings challenge conventional wisdom about the relationship between bacteria and the human body — and about how the microbes influence health and disease.

The study, published March 15 in Immunity, focused on "good" or "commensal" bacteria that live in the human intestine and are essential for digestion and proper immune function. The majority of these commensal bacteria are found in the tube-like inner core of the intestine, called the lumen. The intestine itself acts as a barrier, keeping the bacteria inside the lumen and ensuring that they do not enter the rest of the body. Many reports have demonstrated that if commensal bacteria managed to escape the lumen, they would activate the immune system and cause disease.

But in their study, Weill Cornell Medicine investigators identified a group of commensal bacteria residing in close contact with immune cells outside of the intestinal lumen that defy this thinking. The discovery may alter the way scientists understand diseases like HIV, inflammatory bowel disease, some cancers, and cardiovascular disease.

Sonnenberg Laboratory. Front center, Dr. Gregory Sonnenberg. Back (from left, clockwise): Dr. Jeremy Goc, Thomas Fung, Xinxin Wang, Dr. Nicholas Bessman and Stephane Pourpe Photo credit: Roger Tully

"For a long time, the assumption was that the human body is essentially sterile and that a physical separation between the immune system and our commensal bacteria was necessary to prevent chronic inflammation," said lead author Dr. Gregory Sonnenberg, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology in medicine and a member of the Jill Roberts Institute for Research in Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Weill Cornell Medicine. "While this is certainly true for most types of commensal bacteria, our new data demonstrate a special class of commensal bacteria that can closely associate with immune cells in a way that is mutually beneficial for both mammals and the microbes."

To learn more about this population of microbes, the researchers studied "germ-free" mice — rodents that are bred to have no bacteria in their bodies and have no contact with outside bacteria. They added this newly identified class of bacteria, called lymphoid tissue-resident commensal bacteria (LRC), to the mice.

The LRC colonized lymphoid tissues — specifically cells in the immune system — located outside of the intestinal lumen. When Dr. Sonnenberg and his colleagues investigated what the bacteria were doing, they found that they did not cause inflammation as expected. Rather, they did exactly the opposite — they limited the inflammatory response in the immune tissue.

The researchers then tried to experimentally induce intestinal tissue damage and inflammation in the rodents. They found that the mice that had LRC in their lymphoid tissue were protected.

"So it seems that these bacteria residing in lymphoid tissue are actually protecting the mice, rather than driving disease as would be expected," said lead author Thomas Fung, a graduate student in Dr. Sonnenberg's lab. "We further found that the immune responses induced by these bacteria are mutually beneficial; they not only protected mice from experimental tissue damage, but they also facilitated bacteria colonization of lymphoid tissues."

These are early findings, but the implications for human health are important to consider, Dr. Sonnenberg added. For example, the prevailing view is that in people with inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer or HIV infection, commensal bacteria disseminate from the lumen of the intestine into the periphery of the body and promote inflammation.

"Our new data indicate that some unique bacteria residing in lymphoid tissues could instead promote tissue protection and limit inflammation," he said, "and our research highlights that it will be important to consider changes in lymphoid tissue-resident microbes during human health and disease."

The Sonnenberg Laboratory is also investigating whether LRCs can be developed as an innovative therapeutic approach to limit chronic inflammation and promote tissue repair in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease.

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Study Finds Lipid Mediator Associated with Good Cholesterol Promotes More Than Just Good Heart Health

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High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is often referred to as "good" cholesterol because it transports fat molecules out of blood vessels, protecting against stroke and heart disease. Now, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have discovered that HDL in blood also carries a protein that powerfully regulates immune function. Together they play an important role in preventing inflammation in the body.

In the study, published June 8 in Nature, the investigators found that a lipid molecule called sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) that is bound to HDL suppresses the formation of T and B immune cells in the bone marrow. In doing so, HDL and S1P block these cells from launching an abnormal immune response that leads to damaging inflammation, a hallmark of many disorders including autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease and neuroinflammatory disease, such as multiple sclerosis.

"Our study shows that S1P that is bound to HDL helps prevent inflammation in many tissues," said senior investigator Dr. Timothy Hla, director of the Center for Vascular Biology and a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell. "When there is less S1P that is bound to HDL in blood, there are more B and T cells that can be activated to produce unwanted inflammation."

Dr. Hla has been studying S1P for more than two decades. He discovered that it is a key regulator of vascular function, and that about 65 percent of S1P in blood is bound to apolipoprotein M (ApoM), a member of the lipoprotein family, within the HDL particle. But until this study, the researchers did not know what specific function HDL-bound S1P served.

The team, including first author Dr. Victoria Blaho, an instructor in pathology and laboratory medicine, and researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Stanford University, studied mice that lacked HDL-bound S1P.

Dr. Timothy Hla

Dr. Timothy Hla. Photo credit: Carlos Rene Perez

Mice lacking HDL-bound S1P developed worse inflammation in a model of multiple sclerosis. The reason for this, the investigators found, is that HDL-bound S1P suppresses the formation of T and B immune cells in the bone marrow. While both immune cells help fight infection, an overabundance of these cells can also trigger unwanted inflammation.

The findings help explain why blood HDL levels are such an important measure of cardiovascular health, Dr. Hla said.

"Blood HDL levels are associated with heart and brain health — the higher the HDL in blood, the less risk one has for cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and dementia," Dr. Hla said. "The corollary is that the lower the HDL, the higher the risk of these diseases." Blood levels of ApoM and S1P have not been studied in these diseases.

The findings further suggest that molecules that mimic HDL-bound S1P could be useful in reducing damaging inflammation that has gone awry, Dr. Hla said. Such molecules are not known and will need to be developed in the future.

However, a related S1P1 receptor inhibitor called Gilenya, has already been approved for use in multiple sclerosis, a condition in which the immune system attacks nerve fibers due to unwanted inflammation, Dr. Hla said.

"The unique function of HDL-S1P could be further exploited for innovative therapeutic opportunities," he said.

For this research, Dr. Blaho received funding from the National Institutes of Health (F32 CA14211), the New York Stem Cell Foundation (C026878) and the Leon Levy Foundation (supported through the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute). Dr. Hla received funding from the NIH (HL67330 and HL89934), as well as through Fondation Leducq.

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Left: T and B cells are types of white blood cells that develop from stem cells (progenitor cells) in the bone marrow. When HDL (good cholesterol) containing the protein ApoM (in yellow) binds to the surface of their progenitor cells, it prevents them from proliferating. Right: Mice that lack the ApoM protein on their HDL develop more severe brain inflammation in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. This inflammation is illustrated by leakage of a red fluorescent dye from blood vessels into the brain. Image
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Closing the Gap

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Through community outreach, students and faculty tackle health disparities among poor and minority New Yorkers

By Heather Salerno

Earlier this year, Ana Reyes promised herself that she'd start living healthier. She knew she needed to make some changes; at fifty-one, the mother of three carried 270 pounds on her five-foot-one frame. So she began eating more vegetables, drinking lots of water, and taking long power walks —and in five months, she’d shed twenty pounds. But Reyes, who lives in a public housing development in East Harlem, knows she should do more. She doesn’t have a primary care provider, and her high blood pressure hasn’t been monitored regularly since she was pregnant with her youngest child, now ten. As for cholesterol, body mass index, or blood sugar? Reyes can’t remember the last time they were checked.

That's why she's at the Johnson Houses Community Center on this Saturday afternoon in May, taking advantage of a free health screening conducted by Weill Cornell’s Heart-to-Heart program, a student organization sponsored by the Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC). The event has a party vibe, thanks to a flurry of red and white balloons and a DJ spinning dance tunes. But the mission is serious: staffed by physicians, nurses, and students, Heart-to-Heart aims to curb cardiovascular disease in New York City’s underserved, minority, and ethnic communities. Faculty and clinicians-in-training — including medical and physician assistant students from Weill Cornell and nursing students from Hunter College — work to identify people who may already have a chronic disease, as well as to offer preventive advice to those on the cusp of dangerous conditions.

On a stage next to the center's basketball court, Reyes moves from station to station as smiling Heart-to-Heart volunteers measure her waist circumference, check her pulse, and prick her finger to draw blood, which is analyzed in less than seven minutes. She doesn't react much when given the straight numbers: total cholesterol of 258 (above normal); glucose level of 111; a BMI of 46.54 percent (considered morbidly obese). But she's visibly concerned after sitting down with Sebhat Erqou, MD, PhD, an instructor in medicine at Weill Cornell, who gently explains that the results put her at a much higher risk for type 2 diabetes, heart attack, or stroke. "The good thing is that you're doing all the right things, because exercise and weight loss can reverse it in most people," Erqou tells her. "Your doctor in the future may want to put you on diabetes medication, but you could prevent that by doing the things we're talking about. It's not alarming, but it's something to watch."

Referred to an agency that can assist her in finding a regular doctor who takes her government-sponsored insurance plan, Reyes vows to seek follow-up care. "This is the first time I ever heard I was pre-diabetic," she says with a frown. "It just tells me I have to work harder."

Unfortunately, Reyes's diagnosis isn't the exception in her neighborhood — it's the rule. In East and Central Harlem, six in ten adults and about one in four children are overweight or obese. As a result, these largely African American and Latino communities have a disproportionately higher prevalence of obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and other major ailments. Of the more than 3,000 people that Heart-to-Heart has screened at more than fifty events throughout New York City since 2010 — about half of whom have a household income of $20,000 a year or less — nearly 60 percent are pre-diabetic or diabetic. "We need to make these individuals aware of their conditions early on and convince them to make small lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in the long term — not just in keeping them healthy, but in also reducing the healthcare costs for the nation," says Jeff Zhu, the CTSC’s manager for community research, relations, and outreach. Says Julianne Imperato-McGinley, MD, the CTSC’s program director and associate dean for translational research: "Cardiovascular disease is one of the easiest diseases to prevent. If you can discover it, diagnose it, and intervene early, you don't need to go through, say, triple-bypass surgery down the road."

Heart-to-Heart is one of several CTSC outreach programs striving to address the health inequities that plague socioeconomically disadvantaged New Yorkers. Since 2009, the Center has provided Community Interactive Video Conferencing (CIVIC), which connects experts from Weill Cornell and partner institutions with underserved communities throughout New York City and Long Island. Connecting with audiences at faith-based institutions and community centers, it addresses preventive health and other topics in an interactive, town-hall-style format; its latest initiative provides "hands-only" CPR training in conjunction with the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute. "Community engagement is an important function of the CTSC," Imperato-McGinley notes. "With CIVIC and Heart-to-Heart, we've made a firm commitment to being a partner in addressing disparities in New York City." In 2012, the CTSC produced a successful staged reading of Miss Evers' Boys, a Pulitzer-nominated play about the notorious Tuskegee syphilis study written by Cornell theatre professor David Feldshuh, MD. The event featured a panel — moderated by Joseph Fins, MD '86, the E. William Davis Jr., MD, Professor of Medical Ethics and chief of the division — that addressed the issues the play raises.

For Weill Cornell, combating health disparities is an ongoing commitment that goes back decades. For example, the Medical College founded its Travelers Summer Research Fellowship program — designed to help pre-med students from under-represented minority groups dive deeper into issues that affect the underserved — nearly a half-century ago. In 2009, an $8 million grant from the NIH established the Comprehensive Center of Excellence in Disparities Research and Community Engagement, (CEDREC), charged with developing community-based initiatives to improve the health of this hard-to-reach population by providing general health education.

young doctors; Closing the Gap

Through a variety of programs, Weill Cornell is reaching out to socioeconomically disadvantaged New Yorkers.

Normally, says CEDREC's director, Carla Boutin-Foster, MD, MS '99, research is conducted in academic settings, which many in these communities find off-putting. So the goal of these programs is to connect one-on-one with patients in places where they feel most comfortable, even if the locations are unconventional. "There are social factors that pose challenges for some people to access proper care in traditional healthcare settings," says Boutin-Foster. "We want to make sure that we reach people where they are and not rely on traditional healthcare or research settings."

Boutin-Foster adds that those social factors also contribute to the poor health seen frequently among the groups that the Center serves. Minorities are more likely to live in areas where fresh produce and other healthy foods are scarce, with few opportunities for safe, affordable physical activity. Language barriers and transportation issues block some from visiting a physician.

Among many African Americans, there is still a lingering mistrust of medical research that dates back to the Tuskegee study; Boutin-Foster points to research showing that some minorities may feel that doctors treat them differently because of their race or ethnicity. In addition, routine checkups and treatment for chronic diseases often prove too costly for the uninsured. "When someone has to take care of a family and worry about paying the bills, health may not be a priority," says Boutin-Foster. “It’s not a deficiency that they have; it’s just reality. People are constantly making tradeoffs when it comes to their own health, especially when they don’t feel ill. Hypertension tends to be silent until someone has organ damage; so, for the most part, do renal disease, stroke, and heart failure from hypertension. So 'why take a day off from work when that's going to cost part of my salary or even my job?' It's complicated."

For Boutin-Foster, any effective health intervention or research study requires a grassroots effort, one that embeds itself in the population being served. Therefore, faculty working on CEDREC projects collaborate with partners — including barbershop owners, faith-based organizations, and local physicians — who are trusted by the residents of those communities. To recruit participants for the Small Changes and Lasting Effects (SCALE) project — a five-year, multi-phase trial to help overweight or obese African Americans and Latinos lose weight by adopting tiny shifts in their dietary and exercise habits — researchers sought assistance from prominent church leaders, well-established health centers, and PTA associations in Harlem and the South Bronx. Pastoral support, in particular, was instrumental in motivating church members to take part in SCALE, according to Erica Phillips-Caesar, MD, an associate professor of clinical medicine and co-director of CEDREC's Community Engagement Core. In fact, on the day that Phillips-Caesar and her colleagues introduced the program at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, the influential Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts based his sermon on the issue. "Especially in communities of color, the church has served as a leader in a number of different realms — whether it be health, politics, or social issues," says Phillips-Caesar. "That's very powerful in terms of creating a community of people who are going to support this."

The SCALE team is currently finishing data collection from the approximately 300 adults who enrolled in the program. Participants started by making a relatively minor change in their diet, such as eating from a smaller plate or not skipping breakfast, along with setting a reasonable goal for daily physical activity. Then a community health worker followed each patient for one year, meeting with them regularly and working together on strategies to best achieve those objectives. The intent was to have participants lose at least 7 percent of their total body weight — but the program had wider goals. The community health workers were also trained to navigate unique, unrelated challenges. When one woman had difficulty committing to the program because she has an autistic child, her worker helped find support services. "The intervention is not one-size-fits-all," says Phillips-Caesar. "Our community health workers do a lot of counseling and outreach on aspects of people's lives that have nothing to do with weight."

Just as the SCALE project relied heavily on churches to spread the word, the HeartSmarts program at the Perelman Institute highlights the important role that religion can play in disease-prevention efforts in underserved communities. Created by Naa-Solo Tettey, EdD, the Institute’s cardiovascular health education and community outreach coordinator, HeartSmarts uses the Bible to teach minority churchgoers about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. "I saw a lot of programs that were faith-based, meaning that they were in the churches but they weren't actually utilizing the church culture or the Bible," says Tettey. "They were just programs people had created and given to the churches. So I thought it would be interesting to combine the science with actual scripture."

For example, during a lesson about understanding one's risk of heart disease, Tettey quotes from I Corinthians: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. . . . Therefore honor God with your bodies." She incorporates other key passages when talking about the importance of physical activity, portion control, and optimal heart rates and cholesterol levels.

Since 2012, Tettey has trained about eighty "ambassadors" from the Flatbush Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Brooklyn, the Presbyterian Church of St. Albans in Queens, and dozens of other ministries throughout New York City and Long Island. Those representatives then educate fellow congregants who sign up for a ten-week HeartSmarts course. In the first year alone, more than half the participants reduced their blood pressure and waist circumference. The message, however, has spread beyond those who attend class. "Now, after church services, they're not serving fried chicken anymore. They're serving baked chicken and vegetables," says Tettey. "So even if every person in the church doesn't take the class, they're impacted in some way by having that ambassador there."

At CEDREC, Boutin-Foster hopes to secure funding for projects that focus on health disparities among immigrants, especially low-wage workers in the service industry. The Center is currently fostering partnerships with groups that support day laborers and taxi drivers; it's also teaming up with the New York City office of Cornell's Worker Institute and the National Domestic Workers Alliance to craft interventions for some of the approximately 200,000 domestic workers in New York City including nannies, housecleaners, and elder-care providers. K. C. Wagner, co-chair of the Equity at Work Initiative, notes that even though domestic workers are responsible for the well-being of those in the households where they're employed, they're often unable to attend to their own health concerns. "That is the irony," she says. "Because of their role as workers in an informal economy — some of whom are documented, some of whom are not — they don't have access to healthcare resources."

Moving forward, Boutin-Foster hopes that CEDREC will become a training ground for students interested in studying healthcare disparities. She agrees that larger social policies are needed to address the root causes of such disparities, but she insists they're not enough. A policy can't motivate someone to adopt a healthier lifestyle; that's why she says physicians-in-training must take part in hands-on projects that provide patients with tools that will enable them to become more active in their care. Boutin-Foster believes that medical centers like Weill Cornell must teach physicians to be part of the solution, showing them that well-designed educational and outreach efforts can translate into positive, real-world changes. "It's not just something in a book," she says. "I live in Brooklyn, and I see these disparities on a daily basis; all I need to do is walk down the block or ride the subway. So for me, it's personal."

This story first appeared in Weill Cornell Medicine, Vol. 13, No. 3.

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$25 Million Gift from Gale and Ira Drukier Creates the Drukier Institute for Children's Health at Weill Cornell Medical College

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NEW YORK (December 4, 2014) — Weill Cornell Medical College announced today that it has received a $25 million gift from Gale and Ira Drukier to establish a premier, cross-disciplinary institute dedicated to understanding the underlying causes of diseases that are devastating to children. Its goal will be to rapidly translate basic research breakthroughs into the most advanced therapies for patients.

The extraordinary gift names the Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children's Health and will enable the medical college to recruit a team of leading scientists, including a renowned expert who will serve as the Gale and Ira Drukier Director, to pursue innovative research that improves treatments and therapies for the littlest patients. The Drukier Institute, a marquee program that will be headquartered on the 12th floor of Weill Cornell's new Belfer Research Building, will also expand and enhance the medical college's already-distinguished research and clinical care programs that strive to end diseases and disorders that affect children and adolescents, including asthma, autism, cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases and schizophrenia."We couldn't be more grateful to Gale and Ira, whose generous gift exemplifies their commitment to advancing human health and their steadfast support of Weill Cornell Medical College," said Sanford I. Weill, chairman of the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers. "The Drukiers' investment will better the lives of children in New York and beyond, and will leave a lasting mark on our next generation."

"We are greatly appreciative of Gale and Ira Drukier, whose remarkable gift will enable Weill Cornell to expand its world-class research and clinical care programs for children, who can't be treated like little adults," said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. "The Drukiers' generosity is critical in allowing us to attract the best and brightest minds in pediatric research, who will lead the way as we pursue innovative treatments and therapies that will ensure the health of children now and in the future."

"As parents and grandparents, Gale and I appreciate the tremendous impact medicine can have on growing children," said Dr. Ira Drukier, a member of the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers. "When you cure children, you give them their entire life back. It's with immense pride that we are able to make this investment, which will empower Weill Cornell Medical College to focus and direct all of its outstanding pediatric research under the auspices of one institute and provide vital resources to develop tomorrow's treatments and cures."

"It gives us great joy to be able to support Weill Cornell Medical College and make such a tremendous difference in children's lives," Dr. Gale Drukier said. "This gift also continues our enduring relationship with Cornell University, with which we have been connected for 40 years."

The Drukiers have a legacy of philanthropy at Cornell University, having provided generous support to its Herbert F. Johnson Art Museum and College of Architecture, Art and Planning.

"We at Cornell are immensely grateful to Gale and Ira Drukier for their extraordinary leadership and generosity, which has already been felt across the university," President David Skorton said. "With this spectacular new gift, the Drukiers are enabling us to achieve an unprecedented level of excellence in pediatric research. The bench-to-bedside approach of the Drukier Institute will have a lasting impact on children and their families, giving hope when they need it most."

"The gift from Gale and Ira Drukier establishing the Drukier Institute for Children's Health makes a powerful statement about the importance of focusing the energies of a major research institution on improving the health and wellbeing of children," said Dr. Gerald M. Loughlin, the Nancy C. Paduano Professor of Pediatrics and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College and pediatrician-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "It is a wonderful legacy for these visionary philanthropists."

Caring for children is particularly challenging because their bodies are constantly changing as they grow, and their metabolisms and immune systems are vastly different than those of adults. Understanding the factors that spur growth in children can present possible lines of inquiry into other diseases, such as cancer, because tumors are also programmed to grow. There are also many genetic and developmental diseases that arise in childhood and pose serious health risks during adulthood. But treating these conditions can be arduous for pediatric patients. Many of the common treatments and therapies available to adults have toxic effects on children, making it critical to devise new and better interventions.

Using genomics and other cutting-edge research approaches, the cross-disciplinary Drukier Institute will drive excellence and innovation in pediatrics, seeking to rapidly and seamlessly catalyze research breakthroughs into the most advanced, safe and effective patient care. The Drukiers' generosity will empower the medical college to recruit five top-flight investigators — including a faculty member who conducts clinical research in pediatric genetics — to augment the distinguished team of physician-scientists already at Weill Cornell, as well as train the next generation of researchers in the field.

To help realize this vision, the Drukiers' gift will enable Weill Cornell to secure the latest research equipment, such as sequencing and informatics technology, as well as develop an infrastructure to establish a biobank. Investigators at the institute will work in close collaboration with clinicians in Weill Cornell's Department of Pediatrics to ensure that children immediately benefit from the latest research advances.

To encourage and support faculty development, research and education, the gift will endow the Drukier Lectureship, an annual lecture at Weill Cornell on a research or clinical topic in the field of children's health. It will also establish the Drukier Prize, which will be awarded once a year to a junior faculty member in the United States or abroad for excellence and achievement in advancing research on childhood diseases or disorders.

About Gale and Ira Drukier

A Cornell University graduate, Ira Drukier is co-owner of BD Hotels, LLC, a real estate development company that owns and operates more than two-dozen hotel properties in New York City, including the Mercer, Hotel Elysee and the Maritime.

Dr. Drukier graduated from Cornell in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering with a focus on solid-state physics and in 1967 with a Master in Engineering, earning a doctorate in electrical engineering in 1973 from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Upon graduation, he joined RCA Corporation's David Sarnoff Research Center, conducting research in the field of microwave semiconductors, which culminated in his development of the first high-power compound semiconductor field effect transistor. In 1976, he joined Microwave Semiconductor Corporation (MSC) and established a division to develop and manufacture high-power microwave transistors for commercial and military use. Siemens Corporation acquired MSC in 1981, and Dr. Drukier stayed on as corporate vice president until 1983, when he ventured into a career in real estate.

Dr. Drukier has served on the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers since 2012, sat on Cornell University's Board of Trustees for eight years and was a member of the Cornell Tech Task Force to help develop the Cornell NYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island. He is chair of the council for the Johnson Art Museum at Cornell, chair of the board of trustees building committee of the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, N.Y., and serves on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's President's Council. Dr. Drukier is vice-chair of the American Society for Yad Vashem and is a member of the Museum of Jewish Heritage's Board of Overseers. He has also published numerous papers and given lectures in the field of microwave electronics and has contributed a chapter to a book on Gallium Arsenide Field Effect Transistors.

Gale Drukier graduated from New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development in 1972 with a degree in speech pathology and audiology, later earning a Master of Science ('73) and a Doctor of Education degree ('79) in audiology from Teacher's College at Columbia University. Dr. Drukier began her career as an audiologist at Bellevue Hospital and at Veterans Affairs hospitals in metropolitan New York, later joining Trenton State University — now the College of New Jersey — as a professor. During her 17-year tenure there, Dr. Drukier conducted research, taught and developed the college's nationally accredited graduate program in audiology. She was consistently recognized by her students as the "Best Teacher." After retiring from teaching, Dr. Drukier joined her family's business, BD Hotels, and has managed and renovated properties on Manhattan's West Side for more than 12 years.

Dr. Drukier has continued to serve NYU since her graduation. She has been a member of the Steinhardt Dean's Council since 2005 as a supporter of the educational and fundraising initiatives of the school. In 2007, Dr. Drukier joined the NYU Board of Trustees and presently chairs its Academic Affairs Committee. In 2010, Dr. Drukier endowed and named the deanship of NYU's Steinhardt School of Education. She was awarded the Meritorious Service Award by NYU in 2013.

Dr. Drukier has also been active at Cornell University, chairing the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art's Program Committee and is a member of the Plantations Council. Dr. Drukier and her husband endowed the deanship at Cornell's College of Architecture, Art and Planning, endowed the curator of prints and drawings at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum and created a garden at Plantations at Cornell University. The couple is also active in the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, N.Y., and serves on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's President's Council. Dr. Drukier is an animal lover, particularly of felines, and is on the board of directors of the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons. The Drukiers have one daughter and four grandchildren.

Weill Cornell Medical College

Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University's medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Cornell University is the first in the U.S. to offer a M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, and most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with Houston Methodist. For more information, visit weill.cornell.edu.

This release was updated on Dec. 16, 2014.

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Institute Devoted to Bench-to-Bedside Research to Advance New Treatments and Therapies that Target Childhood Diseases and Disorders

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Exercise Vital to Improving Health Outcomes for Patients with Cardiovascular Disease and Depression

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Exercise is key to improving health outcomes for patients who suffer from cardiovascular disease and depression, according to new research findings from Weill Cornell Medical College investigators.

Previous research has shown that patients who have both cardiovascular disease and depression have as much as a two times greater risk for adverse events, such as heart attacks and death, and frequently present with other chronic diseases, though the biological reasons behind this are not fully understood. With recent scientific literature suggesting that physical inactivity may be at the root of that increased risk, the Weill Cornell investigators set out to see if exercise would tangibly improve these patients' health.

Dr. Janey Peterson

Dr. Janey Peterson. Photo credit: Faye Osgood

Their findings, published Nov. 13 in the journal Clinical Therapeutics, shed light on the biological mechanics of those improved health outcomes, and offers a threshold for just how much physical activity is needed to reduce risk.

"This study allowed us to dig deep into the biological mechanisms underlying why exercise helps decrease morbidity and mortality," said first author Dr. Janey Peterson, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology in medicine, in cardiothoracic surgery and in integrative medicine. "That's what is so exciting about this."

Researchers have recognized the connection between cardiovascular disease and depression in increasing the risk of adverse health outcomes for three decades, but previous attempts to improve clinical outcomes in this population have proven disappointing, Dr. Peterson said. Scientists have examined several strategies to treat these patients, such as using antidepressants to improve depressive symptoms and thereby reduce morbidity and mortality, but none of them have ultimately been successful, Dr. Peterson said.

In their study, the Weill Cornell investigators enrolled 242 patients who had recently undergone a non-surgical procedure to open narrow or blocked coronary arteries — 89 of whom had high levels of depressive symptoms — in a randomized, 12-month clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of exercise on this population. A subset of 54 patients agreed to participate in a biological measures sub-study.

Patients' physical activity, demographic, psychosocial characteristics and depressive symptoms were evaluated at the beginning of the trial to establish a baseline; patients in the biological study also gave blood. Participants were asked to increase their physical activity to the equivalent of walking about 4.2 miles per week.

While all of the patients were given an educational workbook about cardiovascular disease and how to live with it, half of the participants received an induction of positive affect intervention. Positive affect, a feeling of happiness and wellbeing, has been shown in non-clinical studies to enhance positive feelings, lead to higher self-efficacy, increase intrinsic motivation and promote flexible thinking and healthier behaviors. Weill Cornell investigators are credited as the first group to translate and develop induction of positive affect for use in clinical patient groups, which Dr. Peterson and her colleagues have recently employed to successfully motivate physical activity and other health behaviors, such as medication adherence.

Patients receiving induction of positive affect received small, unexpected gifts in the mail, such as fleece blankets or umbrellas. Researchers followed up with patients by phone at bimonthly intervals during the year; staff induced positive affect for patients in the intervention group at the end of each call.

Investigators found that patients who walked 4.2 miles or more per week for a year, regardless of what group they were in, had lower rates of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Patients with high depressive symptoms who achieved that physical activity benchmark were nearly nine times less likely to experience a major cardiac complication or death over the course of the study.

The biological study seems to confirm these findings. Researchers compared blood samples taken at baseline and at the end of the trial, measuring the amounts of a peptide (interleukin-6) and protein (C-reactive protein) that are implicated in inflammation and also examining activity in the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which is tasked with restraining a person's stress response. Higher activity is associated with reduced inflammation and better cardiovascular health.

Patients who met the physical activity benchmark had an increased ability to respond to stressors in a healthy way, a decrease in the biological markers of inflammation, interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, Dr. Peterson said.

"The biological study provides strong evidence as to why physical activity works so well," she said. "We now have longitudinal data that we didn't have before. We can now show in a structural equation model, from baseline to a year later, how important physical activity benchmark is for patients with cardiovascular disease and the mechanisms."

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"Rare" ApoE Gene Variant Now Believed to be Common in Africans and African Descendants Worldwide

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The Gene Can Increase Levels of Triglyceride Fats in Blood, Which May Contribute to Risk of Heart Disease and Other Disorders

NEW YORK (November 22, 2013) — Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have found that a genetic variation that is linked to increased levels of triglycerides — fats in the blood associated with disorders such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and stroke — is far more common than previously believed and disproportionally affects people of African ancestry. Investigators say their discovery, reported in the American Journal of Cardiology, reinforces the need to screen this population for high levels of triglycerides to stave off disease.

The finding offers a clue as to why Africans and people of African descent have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes compared to many other populations, says the study's senior author, Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell. African Americans with the variant had, on average, 52 percent higher triglyceride levels compared with blacks in the study who did not have the variant.

"The prevalence of the ApoE mutation may put large numbers of Africans and African descendants worldwide at risk for a triglyceride—linked disorder," Dr. Crystal says. "But we don't yet know the extent of that risk or its health consequences.

"Inheriting this genetic variant does not mean a person is going to get heart disease and other diseases. It increases their risk, and screening for fats in the blood — both cholesterol and triglycerides — as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important," Dr. Crystal says. "There are many factors at work in these diseases. This may be one player."

The number of Africans and African descendants who may have this gene variant is significant, Dr. Crystal says. "Based on our findings, we estimate that there could be 1.7 million African Americans in the United States and 36 million sub-Saharan Africans worldwide with the variant, which increases risk of the lipid disorder and, to some unknown extent, the diseases associated with it," he says.

So Rare No One Paid Attention

The study began in Qatar, at Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha.

The gene variant the scientists studied is a single point mutation — a replacement of one of DNA segment with another — in the ApoE gene, which carries fats and other molecules through the blood.

Scientists have believed that more than 95 percent of the world's population has one of three common ApoE variants — 2, 3, or 4. The rest have one of 38 rare ApoE mutations, among them the R145C variant studied in this research. In the three decades since the variant's discovery, only 32 instances of it have been reported in the scientific literature, Dr. Crystal says.

"This ApoE variant was believed to be so extremely rare that no one paid much attention to it," he says.

Weill Cornell researchers in Qatar decided to investigate the mutation in their work evaluating the genetics of Qatari natives — people who have lived in the country for three generations or more. That population is made up of three genetic subpopulations: Arab, Persian, and sub-Saharan African. The researchers were able to look at the genomes of 228 Qatari participants.

To their surprise, investigators found that 17 percent of the African-derived genetic subgroup had the rare ApoE variant. None of the Arab or Persian participants had the mutation.

The team then expanded their study. They looked at participants in the worldwide 1000 Genomes Project (1000G), and found that while the R145C variant is rare to non-existent in populations that are not African or of African descent, it is common (occurring 5 to 12 percent of the time) among African-derived populations, especially those from sub-Sahara.

Weill Cornell Medical College researchers then looked for the variant in New York-area participants taking part in a study on smoking-related lung health. They found that R145C was rare (occurring 0.1 percent of the time) in the 1,012 Caucasians they studied, but common in the 1,266 African-American participants, 4 percent of whom carried the variant.

"This research is a good example of how studying a small population can give you insights that are very relevant to the rest of the world," Dr. Cyrstal says.

The study was supported, in part, by Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar and the Qatar Foundation, Doha, Qatar; and the National Institutes of Health (UL1-RR024996).

Co-authors include Maen D. Abou Ziki, Yael Strulovici-Bare, Dr. Neil R. Hackett, Dr. Juan L. Rodriguez-Flores, Dr. Jason G. Mezey, Jacqueline Salit, Sharon Radisch, Dr. Charleen Hollmann, Dr. Lotfi Chouchane, Dr. Joel Malek, and Dr. Antonio M. Gotto, from Weill Cornell Medical College; and Dr. Mahmoud A. Zirie and Amin Jayyuosi from Hamad Medical Corporation in Qatar.

Weill Cornell Medical College

Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University's medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside, aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Cornell University is the first in the U.S. to offer a M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, and most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with Houston Methodist. For more information, visit weill.cornell.edu.

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Research Highlight: Stopping Vascular Dementia

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Vascular dementia is one of the leading causes of age-related cognitive impairment, with its incidence expected to skyrocket as the baby boomer generation reaches its twilight years.

There are no known biomarkers of the disease, which is characterized by a decline in reasoning, planning, judgment and memory processes caused by inadequate blood flow to the brain. There are no diagnostic tests to screen patients for susceptibility prior to onset of symptoms, and no approved treatments or cures. All that's known today is that vascular dementia, closely related to Alzheimer's disease and often coexisting with it, is associated with cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking, as well as heart attacks and strokes.

To find new treatments for this devastating disease, it is vital to define the state-of-the art, pinpoint knowledge gaps and identify new opportunities for therapeutic development, writes Weill Cornell Medical College's Dr. Costantino Iadecola.

In an article published in the Nov. 20 issue of the journal Neuron, Dr. Iadecola reviewed the mechanisms of vascular dementia from the days of Alois Alzheimer in the early 1900s to modern-day understanding of the disease, providing a synthesis inclusive of basic science investigations, including work performed at Weill Cornell, and clinical studies.

"I was asked by the editors to highlight all of the different pathological processes leading to vascular dementia, including the recently identified contribution of pathogenic factors traditionally attributed to Alzheimer's disease, an area that we have pioneered here at Weill Cornell," said Dr. Iadecola, director of the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, the Anne Parrish Titzell Professor of Neurology and professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell. "Through this analysis, unresolved questions were identified and a path for moving the field forward was charted."

With tests only able to conclusively diagnose vascular dementia after death, Dr. Iadecola and his team at the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute are developing new biomarkers and identifying susceptibility genes to ultimately predict a patient's risk of developing the disease before the onset of symptoms — something not possible today.

"We are really committed to unraveling how neurovascular and neurometabolic diseases cause dementia," Dr. Iadecola said, "both from the basic science perspective and from the clinical side."

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Detecting and Treating Silent Heart Disease: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College Launch New Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging

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Funded by a $20 million gift from the Dalio Foundation, the institute will combine research, clinical care, and education to uncover new answers about preventing heart disease

NEW YORK (November 12, 2013) — To help reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease, the nation's leading killer, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College have created the Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging. Raymond T. Dalio, a life trustee of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, has made a gift of $20 million through his Dalio Foundation in support of the institute.

The Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging will employ a multidisciplinary, multimodality approach to the detection and treatment of heart disease, with a focus on finding new answers about prevention of heart disease in at-risk individuals and ultimately save lives. Its mission is to innovate, integrate, and educate, goals that will be achieved through cutting-edge research, transformations of current clinical paradigms, and dissemination of knowledge.

Dr. James K. Min, an expert in cardiovascular imaging and a physician-scientist who has led several large-scale multicenter clinical trials, has been appointed director of the Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging. Dr. Min is an attending physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a full-time faculty member in the Department of Radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. He joins NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was director of cardiac imaging research and co-director of cardiac imaging.

Rooted in the central role of imaging techniques to better diagnose cardiovascular disease, the institute will not only use state-of-the-art tools such as MRI, CT, and PET scanners, but will also focus on the development of novel next-generation technologies and diagnostic tests. Applying a team-based approach that draws on the expertise of physicians and scientists in radiology, cardiology, genetics, proteomics, and computational biology, the institute's primary research initiative is to identify the "vulnerable plaque," or the specific coronary artery lesion that is responsible for a future heart attack or sudden cardiac death.

"The vulnerable plaque is the holy grail in the diagnostic work-up of individuals with suspected coronary artery disease, and its elusive nature has precluded the timely treatment of millions of high-risk individuals," says Dr. Min. "We will apply an array of innovative hardware and software imaging technologies to improve identification of the vulnerable plaque, and then seek to apply these findings in large-scale multicenter clinical trials and registries to encourage full integration of our research findings into clinical practice."

To develop the world-class clinical program to diagnose early cardiovascular disease, the Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging will use state-of-the-art imaging technologies in conjunction with other cutting-edge diagnostic tests, including blood markers of inflammation, protein expression, and metabolism. The clinical program will serve patients in the outpatient and inpatient setting, as well as in the emergency department. Three specific initiatives within the clinical program will emphasize early identification of heart disease in women, ethnic minorities, and young patients with a family history of premature heart disease.

The institute's educational mission will focus on disseminating knowledge of the latest advances in cardiovascular imaging through the education of physicians, physician trainees, and allied health professionals through formal didactic curricula and symposia.

"More than half of people who die from sudden heart attacks never knew they were at risk because their underlying heart conditions had never been diagnosed," says Dr. Min. "Many heart attacks can be prevented if people know of the extent and severity of their asymptomatic heart disease and are properly treated. By bringing together a multidisciplinary group of experts, the Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging will not just offer the latest imaging techniques for early detection, but will also develop disruptive technologies to fight the battle against heart disease. Ultimately, these pioneering methods aim to challenge current clinical paradigms in order to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with cardiovascular disease."

"Establishing the Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging is an incredibly significant milestone in our fight against heart disease," says Dr. Steven J. Corwin, CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a cardiologist by training. "While modern medicine offers highly sophisticated tools for treating heart disease, we still have a long way to go in terms of identifying high-risk individuals with early-stage disease so that we can prevent catastrophic outcomes and save lives. Dr. Min's unique background, expertise, and clinical research experience make him ideally suited to lead the institute and its groundbreaking initiatives. We are thrilled that Dr. Min has joined us, and we are extraordinarily grateful to Ray Dalio for his vision and generous support."

"The interdisciplinary nature of the new Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging exemplifies the best in translational research — investigations that can make lifesaving impact on our patients," says Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. "Dr. Min has a proven track record of effectively testing novel theories, and we enthusiastically support what we know will be innovative research at the institute."

NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center

NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College, the medical school of Cornell University. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, education, research and community service. Weill Cornell physician-scientists have been responsible for many medical advances -- including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer; the synthesis of penicillin; the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S.; the first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson's disease; the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth; and, most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital, and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Cornell University is the first in the U.S. to offer a M.D. degree overseas. For more information, visit www.nyp.org and weill.cornell.edu.

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Research Highlight: Aging and Obesity Projected as Primary Drivers of Cardiovascular Disease Through 2030

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More Americans will be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease in the coming decades in spite of plummeting smoking rates and a growing reservoir of effective treatments, according to a new Weill Cornell Medical College research study.

The study, published Oct. 7 in Health Affairs by lead author Dr. Ankur Pandya, assistant professor of public health from Weill Cornell Medical College, and researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University, highlights the implications for health and cost burdens that will result from increasing obesity levels and an aging population.

Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death and among the costliest health problems facing the United States. And this is not likely to change, the researchers say, especially if the obesity epidemic does not improve.

Fewer Americans are smoking and there are more effective treatments on the market to control blood pressure and cholesterol, changes that over the past few decades have led to fewer cardiovascular disease-related deaths, the researchers say. But despite gains in these areas, cardiovascular disease is and will continue to be a national scourge for decades because there will be more Americans who will live longer with the disease.

Using data from 1973 to 2010 reported in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the researchers project that, unless obesity becomes less prevalent, the number of Americans diagnosed with cardiovascular disease will continue to skyrocket through 2030. This will result in increasing health care costs, disability and reductions in patients' quality of life, researchers say.

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