NIH awards UTHSCT scientist $1.2 million to study inflammation’s role in life-threatening infection

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A scientist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has been awarded a $1.2 million federal grant to investigate ways to control the inflammation involved in a life-threatening illness called septic shock.

Jian Fu, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biochemistry at UTHSCT, will use the five-year grant from the NIH to investigate the role of an enzyme called Sirt1 in the inflammation process associated with septic shock. Sirt1 and other enzymes regulate the rate of chemical reactions inside a cell.

Dr. Fu thinks that understanding the role Sirt1 plays in inflammation caused by septic shock could lead to better ways to prevent this devastating disease.

About 750,000 cases of septic shock occur each year in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. It kills 40 percent of the adults and 25 percent of the children who contract it.

Septic shock occurs when a person is overwhelmed by a massive bacterial or fungal infection. In response, the body’s immune system floods the bloodstream with infection-fighting chemicals.

However, these chemicals also cause widespread inflammation throughout the body. The inflammation triggers tiny blood clots that keep nutrients and oxygen away from vital organs. The organs stop working, blood pressure plummets, and the person can die.

Dr. Fu is one of about 30 biomedical researchers at UTHSCT. In the past two years, they were awarded more than $25 million in research dollars to support their world-class programs investigating lung disease, cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, and aging. The NIH provided over $11 million of those funds.

For more than 60 years, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has provided excellent patient care and cutting-edge treatment, specializing in pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, primary care, and the disciplines that support them. UTHSCT’s annual operating budget of $125 million represents a major economic impact of over $287 million for the Northeast Texas region. Since 2002, scientists in the Center for Biomedical Research have been awarded $118.6 million in research dollars. As the academic health science center for Northeast Texas, its graduate medical education programs – with residencies in family medicine and occupational medicine – provide doctors for many communities throughout the region and beyond. UTHSCT is also the program sponsor of the residency program in internal medicine at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview.

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