YOUR HEALTH: 9/11 first responders are still saving lives

Thanks to this research, an exercise fanatic discovered he had underlying and extensive heart disease.
Published: Nov. 1, 2023 at 10:26 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – New York and Nashville researchers studied blood cell mutations in 9/11 first responders and determined some cells were cloning out of control and causing cardiovascular disease. Thanks to this research, an exercise fanatic discovered he had underlying and extensive heart disease.

Roger Grad exercises 90 minutes a day, five days a week. So, why did his doctor tell him something so off-the-wall?

“‘You look like you’re in absolutely perfect physical shape, perfect health, and you should be dead.’,” Roger recalls.

His doctor, Director of Hematologic Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Dr. Michael Savona, suspected cardiovascular disease, but standard tests revealed nothing. However, he had studied the blood of 9/11 responders to see how certain genetic mutations could trigger cardiovascular disease by replicating out of control.

“So, I looked at some genetic screening and found mutations in his blood cells, and 30 percent of his blood cells had one mutation and 30 percent of his cells had another mutation, both of which we know increase your risk for vascular disease,” Dr. Savona explains.

Roger did have high hematocrit — extra red blood cells that can be related to mutations. He also had TET2 cells, which cause disease. These clonal hematopoietic cells trigger inflammation and heart attacks.

Dr. Savona adds, “These are gene mutations that occur as you age, and these mutations are naturally occurring, just because of math. If your cells divide enough, sooner or later there’s gonna be an error that doesn’t get fixed.”

Roger needed an open heart bypass.

“I don’t know how to repeat it enough – I had no symptoms,” Roger tells Ivanhoe.

But, he was at critical risk for a heart attack because his arteries were blocked nearly 100 percent.

Dr. Savona exclaims, “Having a bypass probably saved his life, and helped him avoid having a heart attack during one of his workout routines.”

Dr. Savona says, throughout the world, there are bio-repositories where blood samples, like the ones from 9/11 responders are stored. He says it’s important because doctors can go back to Vanderbilt’s repository called CHIVE, which is one of the most advanced, and study potential outcomes of genetic mutations like Roger’s. So, research from these studies continue to help others.

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