In 2002, a group of researchers in the fields of cell electrophysiology, cardiology, population genetics, epidemiology, proteomics, molecular biology, bioinformatics and statistics decided to take up the challenge of investigating the mechanisms and genetics of arterial hypertension (AH). Mechanisms related to ion channel regulation of arterial smooth muscle function were identified. The HERACLES (Hipertensión Esencial: Red de Análisis de Canales iónicos de la musculatura Lisa arterial y su Explotación terapéutica Sistemática) network was honored with a distinguished mention in the 2005 evaluation, and was strengthened by the incorporation of new research groups in 2007. The work of the HERACLES network is characterized as much by the transfer of knowledge «from bedside to bench» as by its converse: «from bench to bedside». The current objectives of the HERACLES network are: a) to study the Ca 2+ -dependent K + channels, the transient receptor potential (TRP) cation channels, and the Ca 2+ -dependent Cl- channels that are involved in vascular physiology; b) to study protein expression maps in plasma and cardiovascular tissue and their significance for drug treatment; c) to study the effect of flavonoids on ion transport and responses to oxidative stress, and d) to identify biomarkers of risk, prognosis, and treatment responses in extreme AH phenotypes. Our project includes a number of lines of research coordinated within cross-sectional programs based on centralized facilities, which are used by them. The HERACLES network has published more than 60 articles (available from: http://www.redheracles.net), funding has been received for more than 90 projects in competitive submissions to Spanish and six international bodies, and there is a DNA Biobank.
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