Epidemiologic Research

Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine

Dr. Ellison serves as a senior investigator in The Framingham Study and is principal investigator of the Framingham centers of the NHLBI Family Heart Study, HyperGEN, and the Genetics of Coronary Calcification collaborative study. In recent years, Dr. Ellison has collaborated with French scientists in attempting to explain the “French Paradox,” the low rates of coronary heart disease in France despite high levels of conventional risk factors. The regular consumption of wine appears to be one important factor. Dr. Ellison and his colleagues have a number of current research studies on the net effects on heart disease, obesity, cancer, and other chronic conditions of moderate alcohol consumption and other lifestyle habits.

Framingham Heart Study

Of special note is the continued leadership of Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute faculty in the Boston University/Framingham Heart Study, begun in 1948, and known as the longest running and most influential epidemiological study of cardiovascular disease. In 1979, Dr. William B. Kannel, the second director of the renowned study, became chief of the Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology of Boston University School of Medicine. He replaced Thomas R. Dawber, M.D., a professor emeritus, the study’s first director.

The appointment of Dr. R. Curtis Ellison in 1989 as successor to Dr. Kannel as chief of the section represents a strengthening of the ties of the Institute to epidemiological studies of cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Ellison is known for his work on the diet of teen-age boys in which he has demonstrated that rises in blood pressure and cholesterol levels are neither inevitable nor uncontrollable.

Dr. Philip Wolf, who is currently the Principal Investigator of the Framingham Study, is known for his epidemiological studies of such neurologic and cardiovascular diseases as stroke. Dr. Levy, who is Director of the Heart Study, focuses on hypertension and left ventricular hypertrophy, congestive heart failure, and the application of molecular genetic methods to epidemiologic analysis. Dr. Ramachandran, a senior investigator at the Heart Study, researches heart failure, ventricular remodeling, vascular function, and high blood pressure.

At the Framingham Heart Study, Dr. Benjamin is Director of Echocardiography and Vascular Testing. Her research has examined cardiac risk factors for stroke, the epidemiology, risk factors and prognosis of atrial fibrillation, and the epidemiology of mitral annular calcification and of mitral valve prolapse. Additionally, she is researching the correlates and prognosis of brachial artery reactivity and arterial stiffness. Dr. Benjamin has developed a state of the art vascular testing research laboratory in collaboration with Dr. Vita and Dr. Gary Mitchell. Via two grants from the National Institutes of Health, the investigators have performed arterial tonometry and brachial reactivity in the Framingham Offspring and Third Generation cohorts. The research is elucidating the cross-sectional correlates and prognosis of brachial reactivity and arterial tonometry in the community.

Framingham Investigators also have a central role in the Program in Genomics Applications CardioGenomics project. They work with the MIT Whitehead Institute which genotypes SNPs in 200 candidate genes in about 2000 Framingham Offpsring subjects to look at the genetics of cardiac structure and systolic Function. Dr. Benjamin serves as PI of the Framingham component, and Drs. Larson, Levy, O’Donnell and Vasan as Coinvestigators.

Other faculty of the Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology have also made large contributions to the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease. Kenneth K. Rothman, Dr.P.H., is an internationally respected epidemiologist who edits the journal, Epidemiology. Lynn L. Moore, D.Sc., is demonstrating the importance of behavioral factors early in life, especially diet and exercise habits, in the development of cardiovascular risk factors.

Primary teaching affiliate
of BU School of Medicine