FYI from the NHLBI Index

May 2000: Vol.1, Issue 1
In the News

News from Capitol Hill

Recent Advances from the NHLBI
  • Making Sure the Blood You Get is Safe
  • NHLBI Issues New Advisory on Systolic Blood Pressure
  • The NHLBI Stops Part of Study - High Blood Pressure Drug Performs No Better than Standard Treatment
Spotlight on Our Web Site
  • New Web Site Provides Access to Information on Sleep and Sleep Disorders
  • New Web Site Released for High Blood Pressure Education Month

News from Capitol Hill

Every Spring, the directors of the National Institutes of Health testify before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees as part of the annual budget cycle that determines funding levels for the following year. The appropriations hearings give each NIH institute and center an opportunity to tell the members of Congress about recent research accomplishments, exciting ongoing studies, and research opportunities that they hope to address in the future. The hearings also allow the members to query the directors about topics in which they hold a personal interest.

On February 17, Dr. Claude Lenfant, Director, NHLBI, testified before the House Appropriations Committee about FY 2001 funding. His full written testimony is available.

Mr. Porter, Committee chair, asked Dr. Lenfant about the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify heart attack victims quickly in emergency room settings and the widening gap between what we know about diagnosis and treatment of diseases and incorporation of that knowledge into clinical practice. Other members initiated lengthy discussions on efforts to address health disparities that exist in ethnic and racial minorities, as well as in less affluent socioeconomic groups; the rationale for developing gene therapy for sickle cell disease when bone marrow transplantation has been shown to cure it in seriously affected individuals; currently supported clinical trials on prevention of cardiovascular disease in persons with Type II diabetes; and the costs and benefits of placing automatic defibrillators in public places for emergency use with victims of sudden cardiac arrest.

On March 30, Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, Acting Director, NIH, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee. Typically, NIH institute directors attend the Senate hearing, but do not testify. Senate questions focused on NIH research supported with the large funding increases provided by the Congress over the last several years and on how the NIH would use a similar increase in FY 2001. Committee members also expressed particular interest in three disease areas - diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease - as well as in health disparity issues.

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Recent Advances from the NHLBI

Making Sure the Blood You Get is Safe

The prospect of acquiring diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis can strike fear into anyone needing a transfusion. However, a recent technological leap in blood testing has virtually eliminated the risk of getting these diseases from blood or blood products. Nucleic acid testing (NAT) detects genes, not antibodies, for the hepatitis and AIDS viruses. The old method relied on finding antibodies, which do not form until the virus has been in the blood for some time. With the old test, infected blood could still test as suitable for donation. NAT solves this by detecting levels of virus too small to cause antibody formation, thereby making the world's safest blood supply ever even safer.

NHLBI Issues New Advisory on Systolic Blood Pressure

The NHLBI's National High Blood Pressure Education Program is campaigning to increase awareness of the dangers of high systolic blood pressure. An advisory appears in this month's issue of Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association. "Systolic hypertension is a major health threat, especially for older Americans," said NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant. "While it cannot be cured, systolic hypertension can be treated and its complications prevented. Americans may have heard that diastolic blood pressure counts more. That may be true for younger people. But we now know that, as people get older, systolic blood pressure becomes more important. If you're middle aged or older, it's a better blood pressure indicator than diastolic of your risk of heart disease and stroke."

The NHLBI Stops Part of Study - High Blood Pressure Drug Performs No Better than Standard Treatment

Earlier this year, the NHLBI discontinued part of a study because one drug, an alpha-adrenergic blocker, was less effective than an established diuretic drug in reducing some forms of disease. As a result, the NHLBI advises patients on alpha-adrenergic blocker drugs to consult their doctors about alternatives. "Patients on an alpha blocker should see their doctor and not just stop taking it," emphasized Dr. Jeffrey Cutler, the NHLBI's Clinical Applications and Prevention Program Director. "We cannot conclude that the drug was harmful. Rather it didn't work as well as the diuretic in reducing cardiovascular disease."

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Spotlight on Our Web Site

New Web Site Provides Access to Information on Sleep and Sleep Disorders

The NHLBI's National Center on Sleep Disorders Research designed a new Web site to offer the public and health care professionals up-to-date, science-based information on sleep and sleep disorders. It also informs the scientific community about research funding opportunities. This new site is highlighted on the NHLBI Web page and can be accessed through the National Center for Sleep Disorder Research link or accessed directly.

New Web Site Released for High Blood Pressure Education Month

The National High Blood Pressure Education Program also has a new Web site. Reached through the NHLBI Home page, the site has separate gateways with offerings tailored for the public, physicians and other health professionals, and community organizations.

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