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Nabel To Direct NHLBI Clinical Research

Dr. Elizabeth Nabel recently joined NHLBI as director of the Clinical Research Program in the Division of Intramural Research. She is a leading researcher in vascular biology and genetic therapies for cardiovascular disease.

Nabel becomes one of two directors for NHLBI's intramural research program. Over the summer, NHLBI reorganized the division into clinical and laboratory research programs. The reorganization allowed creation of several new units including a Vascular Biology Branch, which also will be headed by Nabel.

Dr. Elizabeth Nabel

She grew up in Minneapolis and earned a B.A. summa cum laude in 1974 from St. Olaf College and in 1981 earned an M.D. from Cornell University Medical College. She did an internship and residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiology at Harvard Medical School's Brigham and Women's Hospital. Then, in 1987, she became assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. While there, she became director of the university's Cardiovascular Research Center in 1992, professor of medicine in 1994, and professor of physiology in 1995. Since 1997, she also served as chief of its division of cardiology.

Nabel's research at the university encompassed both basic science and clinical investigations into the regulation of smooth muscle cell growth, a major contributor to both atherosclerotic lesions and closure of blood vessels after such procedures as coronary bypass graft surgery and angioplasty.

"My laboratory is interested in understanding growth regulatory signals in vascular cells," she said. "Smooth muscle cells respond to mitogens by phenotypic modulation from a contractile to a synthetic cell. However, when the reparative process is complete, smooth muscle cells cease proliferating.

"The mechanisms by which cells revert to a quiescent phenotype are not completely known," she continued. "Understanding these signals is important for dissecting the pathogenesis of vascular diseases and ultimately treating them."

Nabel also has had a long-standing interest in developing novel genetic treatments for cardiovascular diseases. Her laboratory at Michigan is completing the test of an antiproliferative gene in animal models of vascular disease and, with collaborators, Nabel plans to bring this research forward to do phase I human studies at Michigan.

While at NHLBI, she will continue both her basic and clinical studies. "The research opportunities at the NHLBI are tremendous," she said. "This is an exciting time in biomedical research. Basic discoveries can now be rapidly translated into new therapies for heart, lung and blood diseases. The intramural program at the NHLBI is an ideal environment in which to carry out these studies."

Nabel has participated in various NIH study sections and been a member of NHLBI's SPARKS advisory committee, which helps the institute identify special research funding opportunities.

Her research has led to more than 150 professional articles and publications. Among her many honors are such research prizes as the David Drusin Memorial Prize in Medicine from Cornell University Medical College, an Established Investigatorship Award from the American Heart Association, an American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-Amgen Scientific Achievement Award, and the Gwendolyn J. Steward Memorial Award from Temple University in Philadelphia.

In 1998, Nabel was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. She also is a member of other elected professional societies such as the Association of American Physicians and the American Society of Clinical Investigation.

Nabel has three children and her husband, Dr. Gary Nabel, recently became director of NIH's new Vaccine Research Center.

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