UTHCT Research Council awards five grants totaling $45,000

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Five seed grants totaling $45,000 have been awarded to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, an increase of 50 percent over the funds awarded in 2004. The locally raised money will be used to help UTHSCT scientists in their research to find cures for serious diseases, said Scott Fossey, director of Institutional Advancement at UTHSCT.

The research will range from testing a comprehensive approach to curbing childhood obesity to evaluating antibiotic treatments that could prevent dangerous infections in children with cystic fibrosis. The five scientists receiving grants are Rodolfo Amaro, MD; Susan Barrows, MD; Zvjezdana Sever-Chroneos, Ph.D.; David Shafer, MD; and Hua Tang, Ph.D. A committee made up of community members of the UTHSCT Research Council awarded the grants.

“These seed grants will assist our junior researchers as they begin new studies in their fields of interest. The results of their research will then be used to support requests for grants from state and federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health,” Fossey said.

“These seed grants enable UTHSCT to ultimately receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional funding,” he said. Research Council members donate funds each year to assist UTHSCT investigators as they seek new treatments and cures for serious health challenges. The $45,000 in grant funds raised by the council in 2004 is a significant increase over the $30,000 raised in 2003.

UTHSCT Vice President for Research Steven Idell, MD, Ph.D., said the council is an important partnership between the community and UTHSCT investigators.

“The recipients are to be congratulated, because these projects address important areas of both clinical and basic research. They developed solid proposals that will generate new perspectives about these problems. The results from their research could very well lead to grants from the NIH and other outside funding sources in the future,” Dr. Idell said.

Dr. Amaro, an associate professor of pediatrics, was awarded $11,000 for his work, entitled “Does Tobramycin by Inhalation Delay the Acquisition of Pseudomonas in Children? A Pilot Study.” The bacteria Pseudomonas often infect the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis. These infections cause progressive lung damage that eventually can lead to the deaths of CF patients. Dr. Amaro’s research will investigate if giving CF patients the antibiotic tobramycin delays the onset of Pseudomonas infection, thus slowing lung damage and prolonging patients’ lives. Data from this pilot study will be used to design a large study that would include many medical centers throughout the nation.

Dr. Barrows, an assistant professor of pediatrics, received $10,000 for her work, entitled “Childhood Obesity and Pediatric Respiratory Disease: Effects of Nutritional vs. Combined Treatment on Weight, Hyperinsulinemia, and Respiratory Function.” Respiratory problems such as asthma and sleep disorders in children have been linked to obesity and high levels of insulin in the blood. Dr. Barrows will examine if obese children receiving combined treatment for obesity, high insulin levels, and breathing problems have better success in losing weight and lowering insulin levels than obese children who only receive nutritional counseling.

Dr. Sever-Chroneos, a research instructor of biochemistry, was awarded $5,000 for her work, entitled “The Role of Surfactant Protein A in Staphylococcus Leukotoxin.” She will analyze how a special protein, surfactant protein A, helps protect lungs from being infected by Staphylococcus bacteria, which often infect the lungs of CF patients. Dr. Sever-Chroneos will investigate if the protein binds to and inactivates a toxin, or poison, produced by Staphylococcus.

Dr. Shafer, professor of medicine and director of UTHSCT’s Center for Diabetes Care, received $10,000 to study the safety and effectiveness in adults of mixing two types of insulin in one injection. Adults taking intensive insulin therapy to control their blood sugar require at least four injections of insulin daily: one rapidly acting injection before each meal, plus one long-acting injection. A preliminary study in children receiving insulin shots showed the number of daily injections could be safely reduced to three by mixing the long-acting and the rapidly acting insulin into one shot. Reducing daily shots to three means a decrease of more than 1,000 injections during a three-year period.

Dr. Tang, an assistant professor of biochemistry, was awarded $9,000 for his work entitled “Oxidative Stress-induced Insensitivity of Endothelial Cell to Cytokines.” He will study the role of a specific chemical, called reactive oxygen species, in protecting blood vessels from inflammation and people from developing cardiovascular disease as they age.

The Research Council was established to provide unrestricted funds to supplement research projects, purchase special equipment, or provide scholarships in an effort to enhance the significant research being conducted at the Health Center. This is the 10th year proceeds from the research membership have benefited UTHSCT scientists. The grant recipients will be recognized at the 10th Annual Allen B. Cohen Memorial Research Lecture on April 12.

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