Preventing Cardiovascular Disease
Our active research program is focused on developing leading-edge molecular and clinical epidemiological approaches to detect and prevent cardiovascular disease at its earliest stages. Our team of physician-scientists are involved in ongoing basic research, medical education, clinical trials and patient care.
Mark Benson, MD, PhD
Mark D. Benson, MD, PhD, is the Director of the CVI's Clinical Program in Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine and a basic and translational researcher in this field. He joined BIDMC in 2018.
Despite tremendous progress in preventive cardiology, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of mortality worldwide. This residual disease burden likely reflects important, undiscovered biological pathways that underlie atherogenesis and that are not yet effectively targeted by available therapies. The main focus of Dr. Benson's laboratory is to apply emerging metabolomics and proteomics methods to blood and other tissue samples obtained from large human population studies and smaller perturbational studies in order to identify novel pathways in early atherosclerotic disease. The laboratory then studies these pathways in detail using molecular biology approaches, as well as cell-based, mouse model, and other animal model systems. By highlighting novel pathways, the ultimate goal of this research is to identify new targets for preventive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease therapy.
Ongoing projects in the Benson laboratory focus on the following:
- Integration of "multi-omics" data to identify novel pathways of disease
- Methods to efficiently "retro-translate" human findings to experimental model systems
- Use of metabolomics and proteomics profiling data to predict medication response
Murray Mittleman, MD, DrPH
Murray Mittleman, MD,DrPH, is a leader in the field of cardiovascular epidemiology and one of the co-developers of the case-crossover study design, which has become the standard approach in the field of epidemiology for studying the role of transient exposures on the incidence of acute health events.
Dr. Mittleman's work in this area pioneered the role of physical, psychological and chemical triggers of acute cardiovascular events. His research has identified the role of vigorous physical exertion, episodes of anger, anxiety and other psychological stressors, and chemical stressors including cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and ambient air pollution as triggers of acute cardiovascular events including myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, ventricular and atrial arrhythmias, and stroke.
Currently, Dr. Mittleman and his research group conduct studies on triggers of cardiac events and the acute and chronic health effects of air pollution exposure. They also continue to pioneer epidemiologic and biostatistical research methods related to case-crossover study designs and air pollution research. Dr. Mittleman is a Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and collaborates with investigators around the world on a wide range of subjects from adverse drug effects to the health effects of sleep disorders.
Francine Welty, MD, PhD
Research in the laboratory of Francine Welty, MD, PhD, focuses on diet and lipids and their roles in the modification of cardiovascular risk factors and inflammation as a means of preventing coronary artery disease. The Welty Laboratory is studying modifiers of inflammation, including diet, exercise and omega-3 fatty acids in the metabolic syndrome. The laboratory is also studying the effect of soy in postmenopausal women and is involved in genome wide association scans for genes causing type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Among other findings, the laboratory has shown that soy lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure, triglyceride levels, inflammation (C-reactive protein, CRP) and adhesion molecules (VCAM and ICAM) in hypertensive, prehypertensive and normotensive postmenopausal women and in women with metabolic syndrome. The lab has shown that a potential mechanism may be improvement in inflammation as evidenced by lower levels of CRP and adhesion molecules.
Dr. Welty’s laboratory is also performing genome-wide association scans in the Amish to search for genes for type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Genetics of biological aging are also being examined.