American Heart Association

Boston scientist wins American Heart Association Basic Research Prize for identifying inflammation, other triggers of cardiovascular disease

Press Release   •   Nov 14, 2011 04:02 EST

The American Heart Association awarded its Basic Research Prize for 2011 to Peter Libby, M.D., of Boston, “for transcendent discoveries of cellular mechanisms at work in atherogenesis including the role of inflammation in initiating cardiovascular disease.”  Libby, chief of the Cardiovascular Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Mallinckrodt Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, received the prize during opening ceremonies of the association’s Scientific Sessions 2011 at the Orange County Convention Center. American Heart Association President Gordon F. Tomaselli, M.D., presented the prize, awarded annually to recognize achievement in basic cardiovascular science by an investigator who directs an outstanding research laboratory. “Peter Libby and his colleagues have made seminal contributions to cardiovascular science that are extensive and impressive,” Tomaselli said. “Their discoveries have expanded the fundamental understanding of multiple mechanisms that initiate and accelerate atherosclerotic disease.”  Among these discoveries, Tomaselli said, is finding that cells in the blood vessel wall can produce substances that promote inflammation called cytokines. In addition, he helped discover that altered synthesis and breakdown of arterial collagen, regulated by inflammatory signals, governs the susceptibility of atherosclerotic plaques to rupture and clot formation.  “Dr. Libby’s work has provided a solid scientific foundation for understanding mechanisms whereby traditional risk factors alter vascular biology,” Tomaselli said. As a direct result of these findings, inflammation has been added to the traditional risk factors for atherosclerosis and is now identified as a target for therapy to reduce atherosclerotic events. “Few individuals have contributed more than our prize-winner to the field of vascular biology and to our knowledge of atherogenesis, and the relationship of inflammation to atherosclerosis,” said Tomaselli, noting that clinical trials are now translating Libby’s discoveries to benefit patients.