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International Society of Hypertension

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Member Spotlight

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March 2013 Spotlight - Ruan Kruger

Ruan Kruger

North-West University
Private bag X6001
Department of Physiology
Potchefstroom, 2520. South Africa

Current Position:

Senior Lecturer in the School of Physiology, Nutrition and Consumer Sciences; and Cardiovascular Scientist and Ultrasound Technician at the Hypertension Research and Training Clinic of the North-West University, Potchefstroom campus.

Previous Training/Positions:

I am a trained cardiovascular scientist (B.Sc., Hon BSc., MSc. and PhD) in Human Physiology and a trained ultrasound technician with special focus on echocardiography and vascular ultrasound, qualification obtained through the Medical University of Vienna, Austria and the Zuid-Afrikaans Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa.

From 2008 to 2009 I held a temporary lecturing position at the North-West University, Potchefstroom campus, 2010 an associate lecturer position at the Kokstad FET College, Kwa-zulu Natal, 2011 to 2012 Lecturer in Human Physiology at the North-West University and currently Senior lecturer, researcher and ultrasound technician.

When did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension?

I am passionate about clinical and basic research and started to focus on hypertension in 2007. The current disparities evident amongst different ethnic populations in South Africa are an exciting opportunity to explore the reasons for the increasing hypertension prevalence.

Describe your research interest & the research program that you are in?

My research interest is directly linked to vascular health and cardiac function. Many factors contributing to hypertension onset are evident i.e. lifestyle choices, adverse stress, genetics and environmental influences. Mechanisms regarding the differences in cardiovascular disease onset between African and Caucasian populations are not well described in South Africa and this makes it interesting to explore. My focus is therefore cardiac imaging and vascular remodeling as a result of elevated blood pressure and the factors driving the adverse processes in disease states. In particular my main biochemical interest is the N-terminal prohormone B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) a reliable indicator of cardiac strain and also fibulin-1, a marker of extracellular scaffold involved in many processes such as atherosclerosis, myocardial fibrosis, and diabetes mellitus. My current research program includes large and smaller longitudinal and epidemiological studies. The most recent Sympathetic activity and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Africans (SABPA) project, a 3 year follow-up study on 409 educators from the North West province of South Africa, was completed. The Africa leg of the international Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study is also in process of a 7 year follow-up. The latest running program commenced in February 2013 namely the African-PREDICT study. This is the largest longitudinal project from our research entity up to date. In all there programs I am the ultrasound technician, performing all common carotid artery scans and echocardiography.

How did you know about ISH and its activities?

I attend many hypertension related meetings and the ISH is always an important reference. I therefore have particular interest in this society and try to contribute to all its activities including the New Investigators Committee network. I am a proud follower on Facebook and Twitter.

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

As an upcoming researcher I have 4 first-author published papers in accredited international scientific journals and 2 co-author papers (2012 & 2013). All the papers refer to cardiovascular related matters including hypertension. Below are the details of the publications with PMID reference.

  1. R. Kruger, R Schutte, HW Huisman, JM van Rooyen, NT Malan, CMT Fourie, R Louw, FH van der Westhuizen, CA van Deventer, L Malan and AE Schutte. Associations between reactive oxygen species, blood pressure and arterial stiffness in black South Africans: the SABPA study.Journal of Human Hypertension 2012; 26:91–97. PMID: 21270837.
  2. R. Kruger; R. Schutte; HW. Huisman; P. Hindersson; MH. Olsen; AE. Schutte. N-terminal pro-hormone B-type natriuretic peptide and cardiovascular function in Africans and Caucasians: the SAfrEIC study. Heart, Lung and Circulation; 2012; 21:88–95. PMID: 22119736.
  3. R. Kruger; R. Schutte; HW. Huisman; WS. Argraves; LM. Rasmussen; MH. Olsen; AE. Schutte. NT-proBNP is associated with fibulin-1 in Africans; the SAfrEIC study. Atherosclerosis. 2012; 222:216-221. PMID: 22349089.
  4. R. Kruger; R. Schutte; HW. Huisman; MH. Olsen; AE. Schutte. NT-proBNP and potential vascular calcification in African and Caucasian men: the SAfrEIC study. Ethnicity & Disease 2012; 22(4):398–403. PMID: 23140068.
  5. R. Kruger; R. Schutte; HW. Huisman; P. Hindersson; MH. Olsen; J. Eugen-Olsen; AE. Schutte. NT-proBNP, C-reactive protein and soluble uPAR in a bi-ethnic male population: the SAfrEIC study.PlosOne 2012; under revision.
  6. CMC. Mels; AE. Schutte; E. Erasmus; HW. Huisman; R. Schutte; CMT. Fourie; R. Kruger; JM. Van Rooyen; W Smith; NT. Malan; L. Malan. L-carnitine and long-chain acylcarnitines are positively correlated with ambulatory blood pressure in humans:  The SABPA study. Lipids 2013; 48(1):63-73. PMID: 23099889.
  7. NT. Malan; M. Hamer; G. Lambert; AE. Schutte; R. Schutte; CMC. Mels; CMT. Fourie; HW. Huisman; JM. van Rooyen; W. Smith; R. Kruger; L. Malan. Sex hormones associated with subclinical kidney damage and atherosclerosis in South African men: the SABPA study. Journal of Hypertension 2012; 30(12):2387-94. PMID: 23111623.

Which conference did you first attend & which one did you first present in?

The first conference I attended and presented orally was at the Physiology Society of Southern Africa (PSSA), a national conference in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa.

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

The next international meeting I shall attend and present 2 papers is the European Society of Hypertension (ESH) in Milan, Italy in June 2013. The furthest I have travelled for a conference was in 2011 where I attended and presented at the High Blood Pressure Research Council (HBPR) in Orlando, FL, USA.

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

I am planning a post-doctoral fellowship in Denmark and am currently working on a project with the Odense Hospital University. The paper in progress is entitled (to be presented at ESH 2013): Fibulin-1, a new marker of cardiac fibrosis, is closely related to levels of N-terminal pro B-type natriuretic peptide in patients with mild to moderate aortic valve stenosis

What entity (i.e. equipment, patient population) is essential to your research?

A typical clinical setup is required to perform my research. Equipment essential for research includes 24h blood pressure monitoring, ECG, ultrasound equipment, pulse wave analysis devices, blood sampling and biochemical analyses (therefore a lot of funding), laboratory facilities, anthropometry, general health questionnaires, and a bi-ethnic population preferably one of African and Caucasian descent.

Describe your most memorable (proudest) moment and a challenging instance in your research career so far?

My proudest moment is definitely when my poster presentation was selected as the best in clinical research in the Africa region at the 24th Scientific meeting of the ISH in Sydney, Australia. The challenge was to overcome the sadness of not being able to attend that meeting due to financial constraints.

What area of research do you wish you knew more about?

I wish to learn more about genetic factors that might be at play in the development of hypertension and focus more on structural differences (at cellular level) among ethnic populations and explore the reasons and potential onset of hypertension related diseases.

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