The final official event of Saturday actually provided the official opening of the meeting for the American Physiological Society (APS). Current president Joey Granger walked us through 125 years of the APS, including the founding of the umbrella organization FASEB (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology) 100 years ago. He then introduced the speaker, Gabby Navar, who presented his lifetime of work in renal physiology and the role of the kidney in hypertension (click here for more background).
Science takes place in baby-steps. Even a paper in a glamour journal with years of data, like a toddler's first efforts, is just as likely to lead to falling back on a full diaper as a movement forward. Take enough of these steps, and you can eventually get somewhere. You may always risk a trip and a fall, but with time you move forward.
Dr. Navar's contributions to science brought to mind two major observations. First, hypertension is not a disease. A disease has a cause and an effect. While the effect may be a single physiological measurement such as blood pressure, its causes clearly involve multiple genes and environmental factors. We should think of it as a syndrome.
Syndrome generally means a cluster of symptoms; the origins of the word signify concurrence. For example, a microangiopathic hemolytic anemia with kidney damage leads to a diagnosis of hemolytic uremic syndrome. This syndrome may be the result of several known diseases as well as some not yet characterized. I propose that hypertension, while not a cluster of abnormalities, is a syndrome in a similar sense. Multiple diseases, defined and not, can cause high blood pressure as their sole manifestation.
The other point I considered overnight was how essential animal research has been in our advances in hypertension. We simply would not be able to tease out the complex relationships between neural, renal, and other mechanisms in blood pressure control without the use of animals.
Congratulations to Gabby Navar for a great talk and a good start to a great meeting.