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USA Health System
News Release
Mobile, Ala. (September 3, 2009)
Contact: Kristin Coker, (251) 470-1682

International Academy Honors USA Researcher

Dr. Stephen Schaffer

Dr. Stephen Schaffer
Dr. Stephen Schaffer, professor of pharmacology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was recently honored with the Norman Alpert Award for Established Investigators in Cardiovascular Sciences, given by the International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences in Copenhagen, Denmark. The award is named after the former chairman for the department of physiology at the University of Vermont. Just as a Nobel Prize winner is recognized for the award throughout his or her lifetime, the same is true for the Norman Alpert award.
Dr. Schaffer’s research focuses on the effects of diabetes, high blood pressure and taurine, a naturally occurring organic amino acid, on the heart. Experiments in his laboratory at USA have shown that diabetes and taurine deficiency are risk factors for the development of heart failure, an effect related to an increase in the generation of oxidants that impair contractile function of the heart.

After a 1985 laboratory discovery at USA showing for the first time that type 2 diabetes can cause heart defects, Dr. Schaffer was prompted to examine the effects of high blood pressure, a condition that often co-exists with diabetes and adversely affects contractile function of the heart. Because both diabetes and high blood pressure are risk factors for heart attacks, Dr. Schaffer evaluated the effect of high pressure on damage to the diabetic and nondiabetic heart, subjected to a simulated heart attack caused by blockage of the coronary vessels followed by restoration of blood flow. Those studies showed for the first time that high pressure is an extremely important determinant of damage to the heart during a heart attack. More importantly, a reduction in pressure diminishes damage to the heart.


Decreasing tension may have potential therapeutic application, as an abrupt decrease of blood pressure implemented during the blood supply restoration process may represent an important protective procedure in hypertensive individuals. The thought that pressure unloading could be a great benefit to the heart had not previously been considered.


Dr. Schaffer received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1971. He completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Pennsylvania. Before finding a home in the College of Medicine at USA, Dr. Schaffer was part of the faculty at Lehigh University and Hahnemann University.


Dr. Schaffer has been active in organizing meetings locally and internationally, as well as serving as an ad hoc member of many National Institutes of Health sessions. He serves on the editorial boards of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and Amino Acids.


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Date last changed: September 4, 2009 9:14 AM