UT Health Northeast, a medical center that is part of the University of Texas system, recently announced in a press release that four of its scientists have received a total of $2.1 million in competitive research grants. The researchers are Dr. Vijay Rao, Dr. Krishna Vankayalapati, Dr. Hong-Long Ji, and Dr. Sreerama Shetty.
Dr. Shetty is a professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology working to develop new therapies for pulmonary fibrosis (PF).
He received a $140,000, two-year American Heart Association grant to continue his work into a potential PF treatment. Dr. Shetty’s research team is investigating how a tumor suppressor protein called p53 can change in expression levels and interactions with another molecule in the lungs, leading to alveolar epithelial cell injury and the subsequent scarring and fibrosis observed in the pathogenesis of the disease.
The other grants received by UT Health Northeast researchers cover a variety of issues and disease areas. Dr. Rao was awarded a $1.43 million, four-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study how blood clotting is generated and its link to heart attack and stroke. Dr. Vankayalapati received a $385,852, two-year NIH grant to study HIV patients’ susceptibility to tuberculosis infection, and to develop therapies that would prevent latent or inactive tuberculosis from turning into active, and potentially fatal, infection in these immuno-compromised patients. Finally, Dr. Ji was awarded a $140,000, two-year grant from the American Heart Association to study pulmonary edema, the build-up of fluids in injured lungs.
According to the American Lung Association, 140,000 Americans have been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. This chronic, interstitial lung disease affects the tissue that supports the alveoli in the lungs, and is characterized by the inflammation or accumulation of scar tissue (fibrosis) and the progressive loss of elasticity in lungs, leading to the failure of proper lung activity and insufficient oxygenation of the blood and, subsequently, the organs. The clinical course and progression of pulmonary fibrosis is highly variable among patients, and the trajectory and rate of decline are difficult to predict at diagnosis. The condition has no cure and currently, after diagnosis, many people live only about three to five years.