Federal grant to UTHCT biomedical researchers funds purchase of sophisticated cell-sorting machine

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has received almost half a million dollars from the federal government to purchase a piece of equipment needed to pursue cutting-edge biomedical research.

The Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, awarded UTHSCT more than $491,000 to buy a flow cytometer, said UTHSCT Vice President for Research Steven Idell, MD, Ph.D. HRSA is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“The flow cytometer allows biomedical investigators to separate cells and study their individual responses,” Dr. Idell said. This state-of-the-art instrument costs about $500,000, and has capabilities that other UTHSCT equipment does not have.

“Tissues are composed of several different types of cells. If you break up the tissues or otherwise want to study biological fluids, you need to separate the different cell types to study their individual responses. This machine allows investigators to do that,” he said. For example, UTHSCT scientists can separate and study a given cell type from the lung and see how it responds to particular stimuli.

“We can examine how the cells lining the lungs are responding, and how inflammatory cells are responding. The responses may be very different,” Dr. Idell said.

These data could lead to better treatments for infectious or immune diseases that attack the lungs, he said.

This grant is part of UTHSCT’s Texas Lung Injury Institute, a special entity dedicated to research into lung diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis, or lung scarring; emphysema; asthma; and cystic fibrosis. The Institute is composed of a group of UTHSCT scientists who are collaborating to find better ways to treat lung diseases that currently can’t be cured or for which treatments are limited and often ineffective.

“The flow cytometer is a very useful piece of equipment and will enable many of our investigators to increase the scope and efficiency of their work,” Dr. Idell said.

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