Science of the soldier’s heart  pg. 2

The researchers have since described the mechanisms of other autonomic disorders, including abnormalities in the choline transporter, which is essential to the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

In 1997, the Vanderbilt researchers received a major Program Project Grant (PPG) from the NHLBI to support their studies of autonomic cardiovascular regulation. That grant has been renewed twice, most recently this summer.

It is the only cardiovascular PPG based solely on clinical, patient-oriented research.

Researchers currently are exploring how variations in the choline transporter may contribute to heart rhythm disorders, the role of the autonomic nervous system in the cardiovascular and metabolic alterations associated with obesity, and how factors such as exercise can affect the autonomic response to hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) in people with diabetes.

David Robertson, who also directs the Elliott V. Newman Clinical Research Center at Vanderbilt, says patients are “absolutely critical” members of the research team. Their experiences have helped advance understanding about how bright light, hyperventilation and drinking water can affect blood pressure.

“I wish we could better harness that knowledge,” he says. “I wish we could learn the things that people have discovered in themselves. If we could harness that, it could really be great for medical science.”

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