Weill Cornell Physician-Scientists Win 2 Top Awards at American Heart Association Meeting

Jonathan Weinsaft and Jay Edelberg of Division of Cardiology Honored

Dec 12, 2001


Two young physician-scientists in the Division of Cardiology at Weill Cornell Medical College each won a highly competitive award presented at the recent 2001 American Heart Association meeting in Anaheim. The Laennec Society Young Clinician Award went to cardiology fellow Dr. Jonathan Weinsaft, who solved a 32-year-old woman's longstanding history of heart palpitations with a simple 15-minute tilt-table test and 2 plasma norepinephrine (NE) measurements. (The diagnosis: chronic orthostatic intolerance!) And Dr. Jay Edelberg, Assistant Professor of Medicine, won the Melvin L. Marcus Young Investigator Award in Cardiovascular Science for his innovative research on "Restoration of Senescent Cardiac Angiogenic Activity."

Dr. Jonathan Weinsaft

The 32-year-old woman seen by Dr. Weinsaft, who is 31 years old, had had a 10-year history of palpitations. They occurred daily and were precipitated by upright posture. She had been treated with benzodiazepines and beta-blockers without relief. Physical examination and laboratory findings revealed nothing abnormal, and an electrocardiogram demonstrated sinus tachycardia without other abnormalities.

Dr. Weinsaft observes, "Because the longstanding nature of the patient's palpitations and their postural association were consistent with an abnormality of autonomic tone or baroreceptor function, we considered the diagnosis of chronic orthostatic intolerance. . . . The patient's diagnosis was established on the basis of a tilt-table test and supine and upright NE sampling. With upright tilt, palpitations, hypertension, and tachycardia developed. Supine NE was normal. Upright NE was markedly elevated. These findings were diagnostic of chronic orthostatic intolerance. Treatment with an a-adrenergic agonist was initiated. . . ."

"We are very pleased that Jonathan Weinsaft's case submission was judged the best of all those from throughout the country," said Dr. Bruce Lerman, Chief of the Division of Cardiology at Weill Cornell. "The award is intended to recognize the importance of diagnostic clinical acumen, inductive analytical skills, and teaching ability in future academic cardiologists, and Dr. Weinsaft certainly exemplifies these qualities."

Dr. Jay Edelberg

Dr. Edelberg, 37, is especially interested in the vascular biology of aging. He believes that a depression in the generation of new blood vessels—that is, of endothelial angiogenic activity—may contribute to the severity of heart disease in older individuals. With six colleagues, he compared the function of cardiac endothelial cells of 3-month-old (young) and 18-month-old (aged) mice. He found that while one form of platelet-derived growth factor, PDGF A, is expressed in both young and old hearts, another form, PDGF B, is expressed only in young hearts. This was in addition to several other differences in the cardiac microenvironmental communication pathway of young and old hearts.

Dr. Edelberg went on to hypothesize that cellular restoration of this pathway by the delivery of systemically derived endothelial cells might reverse angiogenic decline. He found that in vitro young endothelial cells, derived from bone marrow, "recapitulate" the PDGF communication with cardiac muscle cells. Furthermore, transplantation of bone marrow from young, but not older, donors restored cardiac angiogenesis in aging animals. These findings suggest novel strategies for addressing aging-associated changes in endothelial activity as a means of fighting cardiovascular disease in older persons.

"Dr. Edelberg is an outstanding young researcher who is opening up important new areas in cardiovascular science," said Dr. Lerman. "His laboratory is doing some of the most exciting work that is now being conducted concerning heart disease in the aging," said Dr. Lerman. "He richly deserves this prestigious honor."