Focus on Research: Pulmonary hypertension studies


Atlanta VA Medical Center

A team of investigators at the Atlanta VA Medical Center led by Mike Hart, MD and Roy Sutliff, PhD (Emory Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine) is researching multi-dimensional strategies to address pulmonary hypertension (PH), or high blood pressure in the lungs. The goal of this highly collaborative team is to better define the underlying causes of this devastating lung disease in the hope that these discoveries will lead to better and more effective therapies.

Hart has spent his career focusing on vascular biology, and recent studies by his lab have determined that therapeutically targeting the nuclear hormone receptor PPARg in vascular wall cells can lead to a variety of beneficial effects in PH. Sutliff, an expert in cardiovascular physiology, has developed the sophisticated techniques to characterize the vascular effects of novel therapies. Together, they have developed the animal models needed to test the molecular mechanisms of their findings.

Based on their original investigations, these Emory University Department of Medicine researchers have built a team that studies multiple aspects of PH, with a particular focus on PPARg. For example, Bum-Yong Kang, PhD has extended investigations of PPARg to PH that occurs in patients with sickle-cell disease, and Kaiser Bijli, PhD has recently expanded his studies to investigate novel treatments with naturally occurring compounds that can safely activate the PPARg receptor to reduce PH.

Green Hart Chaudhry 2016

Drs. Green, Hart, and Chaudry

David Green, MD has focused his studies on how PPARg alters the expression of important proteins in the pulmonary vasculature that are involved in causing PH, and Abubakr Chaudhry, MD has begun the identification of novel metabolic pathways by which PPARg can improve pulmonary vascular cell metabolic dysfunction. Similarly, Brandy Wade, PhD is exploring how alterations in the breakdown of proteins in the lung may be altered in and contribute to PH.

This research program is further enriched by additional and active collaborations with other VA pulmonary investigators. Samantha Yeligar, PhD, MS recently received independent funding from NIH to further explore the role of PPARg in macrophage dysfunction in patients with chronic alcohol ingestion. Atlanta VA Pulmonary Section Chief Ruxana Sadikot, MD and her team recently extended their studies of lung immunity and reported that PPARg activation can facilitate the clearance of bacterial infections from the lung. Cherry Wongtrakool, MD studies how nicotine from cigarette smoking alters airway function and complicates medical management of patients with asthma.

The complementary expertise of these investigators enables comprehensive and innovative approaches to expand our understanding of the basic causes of PH and aid in developing new strategies to treat lung diseases, particularly those that afflict veterans.

More about Dr. Hart


Mike Hart, MD

Charles Michael Hart, MD (Mike Hart) received his undergraduate degree from Duke University and his MD from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He performed clinical training in internal medicine and pulmonary and critical care at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He remained on faculty at the University of Florida for two years before moving to Indiana University in 1990. In 2000, he was recruited to Emory University and served as the chief of the Pulmonary Section at the Atlanta VA Medical Center until 2009. Dr. Hart currently serves as a professor of medicine in the Emory Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, associate chief of staff for research at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, and assistant dean for VA research in the Emory University School of Medicine. Read more


More about Dr. Sutliff


Roy Lee Sutliff, PhD

Roy Lee Sutliff, PhD completed a bachelor of science in biochemistry at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1990. He completed his PhD training in pharmacology at the Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel University) in 1995. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cincinnati under Dr. Richard J. Paul. After four years as a research assistant professor in the Emory Department of Pathology, he joined the Department of Medicine in April of 2003.  He is currently an associate professor and also serves as the faculty associate for international programs at Emory’s Laney Graduate School. Read more


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About the Author

Emory Department of Medicine
Emory Department of Medicine
The Emory University Department of Medicine, within the Emory University School of Medicine, is steeped in a rich tradition of excellence. Through the work of its nine divisions and numerous centers and institutes, the department has pioneered discoveries in medicine, education, scientific and clinical investigation, and clinical care. Emory University School of Medicine's medical school, residency, transitional-year, and fellowship programs offer students the latest knowledge in treatment practices, scientific theories, research, and patient care. The Emory University Department of Medicine is a component of the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University, which includes the Emory schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare.