June 6, 2012

BSSR Lecture Series: Infection, Inflammation, and Cardiovascular Disease among AmerIndians

Speaker - Hillard S. Kaplan, PhD

The basic biology of the human cardiovascular and immune systems, and of glucose and lipid metabolism evolved under conditions of much greater energetic stress and pathogen burden than currently exist in the U.S and other developed countries. This talk focuses on two issues. The first is what can be learned about aging-related diseases by investigating cardiovascular health and disease, inflammation and immunosenescence, and energy metabolism in populations that currently live under conditions of basic subsistence, low energy balance and high pathogen load, without significant access to markets and public health.

The second concerns possible solutions to the methodological challenges associated with conducting in-depth biological investigations in the context of population-level field research. To illustrate these issues, findings from on-going longitudinal research with Tsimane forager-farmers in Bolivia are presented. Initial results suggest that the role of inflammation in vascular and heart disease depends on energy balance and exercise. In addition, the roles of low- and high- density lipoproteins (LDL and HDL) in health and disease may also depend on energy balance and pathogen burden. With respect to immune function, chronic exposure to infectious disease throughout life appears to accelerate both immune system development and immunosenescence.

Combining health care provision with research is an especially productive means of conducting both laboratory-based and population-level epidemiological investigations in developing world settings.

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