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Surgeon with Expertise in the Growth of New Blood Vessels Joins University of Maryland as Head of Vascular Surgery

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rajabrata Sarkar, M.D., Ph.D.
 Rajabrata Sarkar, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Rajabrata Sarkar comes to Baltimore from UCSF

Rajabrata Sarkar, M.D., Ph.D., an expert in treating blood vessel disorders and a nationally known researcher in blood vessel growth and development, has joined the University of Maryland School of Medicine as professor of surgery and Head of the Division of Vascular Surgery. He also becomes Chief of Vascular Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Dr. Sarkar comes from the University of California, San Francisco, where he was an associate professor of surgery with tenure and a vascular surgeon since 1999. He received his medical degree and a Ph.D. in physiology from the University of Michigan Medical School. He completed his surgical training at UCLA and was trained in vascular surgery at the University of Michigan.

“Dr. Sarkar has extensive scientific background and expertise in angiogenesis—the development and re-growth of blood vessels. He is working on new strategies to restore circulation to damaged or blocked blood vessels, which is important for the growing number of people who suffer from vascular disorders,” says Stephen T. Bartlett, M.D., Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Chief of Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Dr. Sarkar is also an excellent clinician, and he will be a great resource for our patients who have vascular disease,” he adds.

“Dr. Sarkar is a top-tier researcher. He brings to the University of Maryland School of Medicine a very strong research program funded by the National Institutes of Health.  His work is likely to lead to the development of more effective treatments for vascular disease, which is a growing concern for millions of people,” says E. Albert Reece, M. D., Ph.D., M.B.A., Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“Dr. Sarkar will lead a research laboratory at our Center for Vascular and Inflammatory Diseases, which is studying basic questions in vascular biology. His work will add an important dimension to the center’s expertise,” adds Dr. Reece.

Vascular disease is a term that includes a wide range of disorders that affect blood vessels all over the body, except the heart. These disorders include narrowed or blocked blood vessels in the legs, neck arteries supplying the brain, or the kidneys. Aneurysms, in which the wall of a blood vessel bulges or expands, also fall under the realm of vascular disease. Varicose veins, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis and blood clotting disorders are also treated by vascular disease specialists.

“With Dr. Sarkar’s leadership of our Vascular Surgery Program, we will be able to provide even more advanced, innovative care for patients with the full range of vascular problems,” says Jeffrey A. Rivest, President and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center.

“Our vascular specialists are national leaders in the minimally invasive repair of a variety of vascular disorders, including abdominal aortic aneurysms. With Dr. Sarkar’s expertise, energy and dedication, our patients will have additional access to the most advanced treatments and care,” adds Rivest.

Some people with blocked arteries are fortunate in that their bodies are naturally able to grow new vessels to allow the flow of blood in spite of the blockage. In the laboratory, Dr. Sarkar has been trying to understand how to initiate that process and grow new arteries in order to compensate for blocked ones. He is also studying how certain risk factors, including smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure—all prevalent among Americans today— prohibit that growth of new vessels.
Another focus of his research is blood clots in veins—specifically how they resolve on their own and why, in many people, they fail to resolve, which leads to poor circulation. “We have identified key genes and proteins that help the body resolve clots, and we are targeting drug therapy to these genes with the goal of finding new treatments for the millions of people with deep vein thrombosis,” says Dr. Sarkar. 
Dr. Sarkar has also studied soldiers with vascular problems and tissue damage due to blast injuries, and he is investigating the use of gene therapy to turn on the growth of arteries and capillaries damaged by traumatic injuries. Such research would not only benefit patients with traumatic injuries, but also help people with poor blood flow due to hardening of the arteries. This research has the potential to change the way vascular disease is treated in the future.

“My goal is to expand the University of Maryland Division of Vascular Surgery’s activities in three specific areas,” says Dr. Sarkar. “The first is to increase minimally invasive treatment options for patients with blockages in the lower leg. The second goal is the development of a comprehensive program for treatment of life-threatening aortic aneurysms and aortic dissections, using minimally invasive endovascular techniques. The third area of focus will be to broaden the research activities of the division to identify key genes and proteins involved in vascular disease, develop innovative drug therapies and initiate novel clinical trials to help patients with vascular disease,” adds Dr. Sarkar.

Dr. Sarkar’s vascular research has been recognized with major national awards. He received the Lifetime Mentored Clinician Scientist Development Award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Vascular Association in 2000. He also was honored by the Foundation for Accelerated Vascular Research in 2005 with the Wylie Scholar Award.

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