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Friedrich Luft Received Novartis Award for his Research on Hypertension

27.09.2007 - (idw) Max-Delbrück-Centrum für Molekulare Medizin (MDC) Berlin-Buch

E m b a r g o ed until: Friday, September 28, 2007, 04:00 pm MST, 24:00 GMT

Physician and hypertension researcher, Professor Friedrich C. Luft, from Berlin, Germany has received the Novartis Award for Hypertension Research from the American Heart Association in Tuscon, Arizona, USA. He was honored for his research on the genetic causes of hypertension, the effects of perturbed electrolyte homeostasis, and the mechanisms of resulting target-organ damage. The award, worth $20,000, is the most important prize in hypertension research given by the American Heart Association and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis each year. Luft is the director of the Experimental and Clinical Research Center, a joint endeavor established by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and the Charité - Universitätsmedizin, in Berlin, Germany. Luft's group identified a specific gene region on chromosome 12 in a family from Turkey in which half of all family members have severe hypertension resulting in stroke before the age of 50. All affected persons also have brachydactyly (short fingers), a not immediately obvious connection.

The group has not yet elucidated the precise cause for this syndrome. However, the finding that affected persons have a major defect in baroreflex buffering (detecting blood pressure and reacting to it) is a novel phenotype.

Professor Nihat Bilginturan from the University of Ankara, Ankara, Turkey, first described this syndrome in the international literature and is a co-investigator on the project. Luft's current MDC partners in this project are Norbert Hübner and Nikolaus Rajewsky.

Luft was also recognized for research done 30 years ago. The notion that the kidney is the final common pathway of blood pressure regulation, a concept termed "pressure natriuresis", stems from seminal research of Ewald Selkurt, Arthur Guyton, and others from the 1950's and later. However, relevance to normal humans had not been shown.

Luft and co-investigators, as well as co-subjects, performed balance studies in ranges of salt (NaCl) intake from 250 mg (knife tip) to more than 80 g (swallow the whole salt shaker and more). The idea was to study the effects of salt on blood pressure and more importantly, renal mechanisms of salt excretion. The findings defined the renal "pressure-natriuresis curve" for humans.

The studies also gave insight into the propensity to hypertension in salt-resistant and salt-sensitive forms. Finally, the studies indicated potassium as a factor in influencing the effects of salt.

In Berlin-Buch at the MDC, Luft and associates have cooperated with several basic scientists to elucidate mechanisms related to target-organ damage. Examples include the transcription factor NF-kB with Claus Scheidereit, recruitment of dendritic cells with Martin Zenker, and mechanisms of aminoglycoside toxicity with Thomas Willnow.

Friedrich Luft was born in 1942 in Berlin. He grew up in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, and first studied Zoology at Colorado College (1960-64). He went on to complete his medical studies at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia (1964-68). His house-staff training and faculty appointments were at Indiana University School of Medicine (Indianapolis, Indiana, USA). Here, he focused his research on the role of the kidney in cardiovascular disease.

After a sabbatical at the University of Heidelberg (1984-86), Luft initially returned to the United States, but then accepted an appointment at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany. Here, he helped to establish a hypertension research unit that is successful until this day.

In 1992, he moved to what is now the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Berlin-Buch. He has headed a research group at the MDC since 1992. The MDC is a national research laboratory, which belongs to the Helmholtz Association. Luft is also Chief of the Division of Internal Medicine/Nephrology at the Helios Klinikum Berlin-Buch.

Friedrich Luft has received other honors, among them the award of the Helmut and Ruth Lingen Stiftung (2001), the Richard Bright award of the American Society for Hypertension (ASH; 2004), and an honorary doctorate from the University of Pecs, Hungary. The research fellowship program that he established between that institution and the MDC is one of his most important accomplishments in his opinion. Luft was also elected member to the German Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina.

Friedrich Luft is the third physician and researcher of Germany to receive the Novartis award. The two others are Detlev Ganten (1992, at that time the Ciba Award) and Franz Gross (1969, at that time the Stouffer Prize).

Barbara Bachtler
Press and Public Affairs
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch
Robert-Rössle-Straße 10; 13125 Berlin; Germany

Phone: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 96
Fax: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 33
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