John Ritter Research Program

The John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases (JRRP) was established through a collaboration between actress, community activist, and John Ritter’s widow, Amy Yasbeck, members of the John Ritter family, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston) to combat the disease that took the life of legendary comic actor, John Ritter.

The JRRP is led by Dianna M. Milewicz, MD, PhD, a recognized leader in aortic disease research and the President George H.W. Bush Chair in Cardiovascular Research. Dr. Milewicz is also the Director of the Division of Medical Genetics at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Dr. Milewicz and her team of scientists, physicians, and genetic counselors discovered four of the genes that are now known to cause a predisposition for thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections that are inherited in families. In addition, the team has identified genetic factors that predispose individuals to thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections when there is no family history of the disease.

The mission of the John Ritter Research Program is to prevent premature deaths due to aortic dissection by identifying genes and other risk factors that predispose to the disease. The JRRP builds on a collaborative research infrastructure already established through the Specialized Center for Clinically-Oriented Research in Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm and Dissections in the Texas Medical Center (SCCOR). This effort, led by Dr. Milewicz and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), involves widespread collaboration among The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute, Baylor College of Medicine, the Texas Heart Institute, and The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The JRRP will allow expansion of the current research program to include researchers throughout the US and worldwide, including Europe, Japan, China, and South America.