Dr. David Blankenhorn, USC professor of medicine who did extensive research showing that heart disease can be reversed through a combination of a low fat diet and cholesterol-lowering drugs, has died of cancer. He was 68.
Blankenhorn, the son of another doctor and professor of medicine, died Sunday at his home in Pacific Grove, said his daughter, Mary Losure.
The theory of using diet and drugs to aid even those who have suffered serious heart problems, now widely accepted, emerged from studies Blankenhorn did in the 1980s on men who had undergone heart bypass surgery.
He first published his findings in 1987 in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., after a four-year study of 103 men. He continued to follow the patients and published stronger evidence in 1990.
Blankenhorn also had worked with experts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop computerized procedures to measure atherosclerotic lesions, leading to new diagnosis and treatment for atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
The doctor was educated at Dartmouth College and the University of Cincinnati Medical School. After service in the Army heading a hospital in Vienna, Blankenhorn began his study of fat and cholesterol metabolism as a research associate at the Rockefeller Institute. He continued his work at Cincinnati General Hospital.
Blankenhorn joined the USC faculty in 1957, served as director of the cardiology division from 1963 to 1980, and became director of the Atherosclerosis Research Institute.
He is survived by his wife, the former Anne Ramsey; four children, David of Oakland, Mary Losure of St. Paul, Minn., Susan Sherer of Kneeland, Calif., and John of Valencia, and four grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled at 3 p.m. Friday at St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Seaside, Calif.
The family has asked that any memorial contributions be sent to Hospice of the Central Coast or St. Matthias Episcopal Church.