Treating the Patient, Not Just the Disease | Cardiology Magazine

As the number of patients with heart disease increases, many cardiologists are researching ways to help improve and prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD). Christie Ballantyne, MD, FACC, is one such member who has been recognized by the ACC and others for his front-line research.

It was during his last year of residency at the University of Texas at Southwestern in Dallas that Ballantyne realized that treating the symptoms of atherosclerotic vascular disease without treating the underlying disease process was not a rational way to practice medicine.

“I decided that I would focus my research efforts on understanding the molecular mechanisms related to atherothrombotic disease and search for alternative ways to prevent and treat this disorder in humans,” he said. “I decided to train in the field of molecular biology and genetics in an attempt to provide myself with new tools to examine the disease.”

Although Ballantyne believes the process of research in the field of prevention is slow, demanding and sometimes frustrating, he also believes it to be both exciting and rewarding. “My research has shown that inflammation plays an important role in the development of atherosclerosis, as well as in adipose tissue ‘malfunction’ that occurs with obesity. We have also found that it is possible to measure biomarkers in humans related to inflammation, which can be associated with CVD and diabetes,” Ballantyne explains.

Although there has been controversy over how basic research findings relates to clinical care, Ballantyne finds the biggest take away from his work has been the concept that applying molecular genetics and advances from molecular biology towards basic mechanism of atherothrombotic disease can help with forming rational clinical strategies to prevent myocardial infarction and stokes.

Ballantyne says much of his dedication is a tribute to his dad, a surgeon, who suffered a massive heart attack when he was in high school and had to be resuscitated at the hospital. In fact his interest in cardiology stemmed from his residence at Baylor College of Medicine where he worked with one of the cardiologists who had treated his father. “As I got more interested in cardiology, it became clear to me that focus on prevention may help not only in preventing a second heart attack, but even more importantly, could help to avoid ever having the first event,” Ballantyne said.

Ballantyne was awarded the ACC’s Distinguished Scientist, Basic Domain Award at ACC.13 in San Francisco.

Keywords: Heart Diseases, Inflammation, Myocardial Infarction, Atherosclerosis, Biomarkers, Cardiology, Cardiovascular Diseases, Obesity, Diabetes Mellitus, Cardiology Magazine, ACC Publications

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