International Society of Hypertension

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Member Spotlight


September 2012 Spotlight -Leoné Malan

Leoné Malan

Hypertension in Africa Research Team (HART)
North-West University
Private Bag X6001
Potchefstroom Campus, North-West Province

Click here to watch a YouTube interview with Leoné Malan (by Dylan Burger - New Investigator Committee member).


How did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension?

On formally entering the research arena in 2006, I became aware of the debilitating interaction between urbanization, sympathetic hyperactivity and hypertension. It sparked my interest to understand the brain-heart link and subsequent secondary endpoints.  

Describe your research & the program/lab that you are in?

The brain-heart link is not receiving the attention it should in Africa. Therefore, my main challenge was to design a prospective study focussing on Sympathetic activity and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Africans (SABPA).

Recently, novel findings revealed associations between defensive coping responses and beta-adrenergic behavioural control. Physiologically though, vascular alpha-adrenergic profile responses were exhibited implying a “loss” of physiological control. Apparent dissociation between beta-adrenergic behavioural and physiological responses as well as subsequent target organ damage was demonstrated.

What do you consider to be your substantial scientific contribution so far (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?

Two manuscripts: 1) Psychophysiological risk markers of cardiovascular disease. In: Psychophysiological Biomarkers of Health. Special Edition: Neurosci Biobehav Rev, 2010 [PMID: 19909773]; and 2) Facilitated defensive coping, silent ischaemia and ECG left-ventricular hypertrophy: the SABPA study, J Hypertens, 2012 [PMID: 22245987].

What is your favourite manuscript from a lab other than your own (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?

Difficult to identify only one manuscript! Sympathetic activity and psychological distress related publications from Proff. S. Julius; G Parati, M Hamer, M. Esler, M. Schlaich; G. Grassi, G. Lambert and definitely H. Selye.

What facilities are essential for your research?

Psychosocial battery focussed on prevention/worsening of hypertension; ambulatory blood pressure & ECG apparatus, beat-to-beat blood pressure monitoring; ultrasound for echocardiogram and CIMT, micro-albuminuria, retinal vessel analyzer, chronic stress measures (hair/saliva blood) and very important, national/international expert collaborative input. 

Where do your research strengths lie? Why? What are your research weaknesses? How will you improve?

Strengths: Working within the fairly unexplored field of psychogenic hypertension and specifically stress appraisal in Africans. Contradicting literature makes it even harder to convince the scientific community to accept our preliminary findings. Weaknesses: Too few scientists in Africa support psychophysiological research. Improving? This will only be possible by disseminating data and getting involved with preventive health programs in the community.

Describe your unforgettable (proudest) moment in science, and the most challenging situation that you have had to overcome (lessons learnt) so far?

Receiving an international award for project excellence (SABPA study) (2008, Metabolic Syndrome Institute, France). Also acceptance of my first paper in J Hypertension 2012 [PMID: 22245987]. The most challenging situation was to conceptualize the idea for the implementation of a Hypertension and Training Clinic on-campus (opening 6th September 2012).

At which conference did you first present? How was your experience?

At the Third Mediterranean Hypertension and Atherosclerosis Meeting, Antalaya in Turkey, 2006 with oral presentation. It was overwhelming and exciting, even though I did not get any questions!

What upcoming conferences will you be attending, and what is the furthest distance that you have traveled for a conference?

The Neuropathophysiology satellite meeting (Cairns), followed by the NIN and ISH meetings in Sidney (Australia) (23rd September - 5th October 2012). In June 2013, I plan to attend the ESH annual meeting. Furthest distance travelled: Portland, Oregon, USA [68th American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting, 2010].

How did you learn about ISH/NIN and its activities?

I became a member of the ISH through recommendations from Proff YK Seedat en L Opie, well-recognized CV scientists in South Africa. I became aware of the ISH/NIN activities through newsletters and website visits.

What area(s) do you wish to specialize in the future?

I will attempt to describe a mechanistic pathway on the cost of coping on secondary endpoints and neural fatigue.

Who is your role model in Science? Why?

If I have single out one, it will be Prof S Julius, with his views on heart rate. I firmly believe that sensory awareness and sympathetic output/drive from the lateral ventral hypothalamus directly affects the heart and subsequent changes in the vasculature.

What are your scientific goals? Advise for talented emerging scientists?

To contribute to preventive health care programs by:

1)      Staying involved with patients during follow-up studies providing a feeling of being cared for, which might eventually lower sympathetic activity.

2)      Implementing preventive measures focussed to adopt healthy stress appraisal strategies as early as pre-school level, resulting in healthy behavioural lifestyle patterns.

3)      Advice? Develop a holistic approach; get involved with patients in hypertension programs; get connected with expert collaborator groups; and be seen and heard at hypertension meetings.


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