Take heart: The milestone findings of the Framingham Heart Study
Since 1948, the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) has been an ambitious endeavor between scientists and participants to identify risk factors for heart disease. Three generations later, this joint project between Boston University and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute remains a world-class epicenter for cutting-edge heart, brain, bone, and sleep research.
Listen in as BU Professor of Medicine and Director of the Framingham Heart Study, Dr. Vasan Ramachandran, Assistant Professor of Gastroenterology, Dr. Michelle Long, and Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, Dr. Vanessa Xanthakis share some of the remarkable, ongoing research and discoveries made through this longest running cohort study in the United States.
Then, you’ll hear about Dr. Ramachandran’s newest project, the RURAL study and how it aims to close the research gap and identify why some people in the rural south may live shorter and less healthy lives.
Welcome remarks by Karen Antman, MD, Dean of Boston University School of Medicine and Provost of the Medical Campus.
About our presenters:
Vasan S. Ramachandran MD
Principal Investigator and Director, Framingham Heart Study
Professor, Preventative Medicine & Epidemiology
Boston University School of Medicine
Vasan S. Ramachandran, MD, Principal Investigator and Director of the FHS, and Director of the FHS fellowship program in cardiovascular epidemiology for the last 25 years.
Dr. Ramachandran is a Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at BU’s School of Public Health and Aram V. Chobanian & Edward Avedisian School of Medicine, and Chief, Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Chobanian & Avedisian. He is the Jay & Louis Coffman Professor of Vascular Medicine at the medical school. Dr. Ramachandran is a trained cardiologist with subspecialty training in echocardiography. He is a fellow of the AHA Councils on Epidemiology and Prevention and Functional Genomics and Translational Biology, and a fellow of the American College of Cardiology (ACC). He has extensive experience in supervising trainees at many levels and has taught the foundational core course on Cardiovascular Epidemiology at BUSPH (EP751). He has several active R01 grants from the NHLBI/NIDDK and received two K24 Mid-Career Investigator mentoring grants from the NHLBI. He has mentored several K23 awardees, and is currently the Principal Investigator of a post-doctoral training program (T32) in cardiovascular epidemiology. Overall, he has supervised over 70 trainees during the past 20 years; most are in key positions in academia. He received the Outstanding Mentor awards from the Department of Medicine at Chobanian & Avedisian and the AHA Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and the prestigious AHA Population Science Award in 2014.
Importantly, Dr. Ramachandran’s own peer-reviewed funding spans thematic areas of genetics and genomics, cardiac and vascular remodeling, novel biomarkers, systems biology including proteomics and metabolomics, and stem cell biology. He has a 25-year history in research in cardiovascular epidemiology, including the two years he trained as a FHS fellow (1993-1995). He established the first School of Public Health in India between 1996-1998, serving as its inaugural director and the coordinator of its MPH program. He is the founding member and leader of the international EchoGen consortium, and chairs the Steering Committee of the Chronic Kidney Disease Biomarker Consortium funded by the NIDDK (U01DK085689). He is recognized internationally for translational research in cardiovascular epidemiology and lectures regularly at the AHA early career session on “how to develop a career in translational research and epidemiology/genetics.” He is well equipped to mentor trainees about grant writing having been a member of the Cardiovascular and Sleep (CASE) SRG, and an active reviewer of grants for national and international funding agencies. He served for many years on the NHLBI panel for reviewing K23-K24-K25 career development grants. He is well qualified to mentor trainees in best publication practices and has served until recently as an Associate Editor for Circulation, and the Editor-in-Chief of Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics. He directs the Center for Integrative Transdisciplinary Epidemiology within the medical school, which hosts multiple epidemiological datasets, including from multiple cohort studies, national surveys (NHANES), administrative databases and electronic health records; this center will be a valuable data source for trainees.
For the last 20 years, Dr. Ramachandran has focused his research on A) the genetic and non-genetic epidemiology of congestive heart failure, including identifying risk factors for the disease, characterizing the subgroups with diastolic heart failure, asymptomatic LV systolic and diastolic dysfunction, and evaluating the role of LV remodeling; B) population-based vascular testing and echocardiography, including identifying biological, environmental, and genetic determinants (correlates) of cardiac structure and function; normative standards; detailed assessment of biomarkers of the process of LV remodeling, including but not limited to role of natriuretic peptides, insulin resistance, cardiac extracellular matrix markers, oxidative stress, inflammation, growth factors; genetics of LV remodeling, LA and aortic structure and gene-environment interactions; brachial artery endothelial function, its correlates and tonometric assessment of large artery function; C) genetic and non-genetic epidemiology of high blood pressure, including characterizing the lifetime risk, rates of progression and risks associated with various degrees of elevation; large artery stiffness and function and role in systolic hypertension in the elderly; genetics of high blood pressure and large artery function; and D) CVD risk estimation in the short, medium- and long-term, with novel biomarkers including genomic biomarkers.
Michelle T. Long MD, MSc (SPH’19)
Assistant Professor, Gastroenterology
Boston University School of Medicine
Michelle T. Long, MD, MSc is a physician-scientist with an expertise in Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Boston University. She completed her clinical training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Medical Center. Dr. Long is the Director of the NAFLD Research Center and the Director of Clinical Research for the Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Her clinical and research interests center on the relationship between NAFLD and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Long is primarily interested in patient-oriented research investigating fibrosis and inflammation in patients with NAFLD and in imaging and risk stratification strategies for hepatic fibrosis. Dr. Long has projects at Boston Medical Center and at the Framingham Heart Study where she is the PI of a study evaluating the prevalence and risk factors for liver fat (steatosis) and fibrosis. In Framingham, she is investigating the clinical and genetic correlates of hepatic steatosis and fibrosis as measured by transient elastography. Dr. Long receives research funding from the NIH (NIDDK), Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Gilead Sciences, Echosens Corporation, and Boston University. She has expertise in epidemiology, visceral fat, liver imaging including computed tomography, ultrasound, and transient elastography. Dr. Long is also a clinical hepatologist and endoscopist.
Dr. Long is additionally interested in novel therapeutics for NAFLD and Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and runs the clinical trials program for the NAFLD Research Center.
Her other research interests include alcohol-related liver disease, hepatitis C, outcomes in end-stage liver disease/cirrhosis.
Vanessa Xanthakis PhD (GRS’12)
Assistant Professor, Medicine & Biostatistics
Boston University School of Medicine
Dr. Vanessa Xanthakis is a biostatistician with training in applied mathematics and statistics, and has a strong commitment to clinical epidemiological research. Presently, she is an Assistant Professor in the Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology in the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and in the Biostatistics Department at Boston University School of Public Health. She is an investigator at the Framingham Heart Study and serves as the biostatistician on several investigations. She also serves as the Program Director for the Boston University T32 Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology and the Promotion of Research In Medical Residency (R38) program. She is the Director of Research Training for the Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology. For the last 12 years, Dr. Xanthakis has focused her research on:
- the epidemiology of cardiac remodeling and subclinical disease, including identifying cardiovascular disease risk factors;
- population-based vascular testing and echocardiography, including identifying biological, environmental, and genetic determinants (correlates) of cardiac structure and function;
- epidemiology of novel biomarkers including but not limited to natriuretic peptides, adipokines, and vascular growth factors;
- cardiovascular risk prediction using biomarkers and assessing their incremental prognostic utility (focus of her PhD thesis);
- epidemiology of heart failure and its precursors; and
- ideal cardiovascular health and its impact on cardiovascular disease and its precursors.