UTHSCT researcher receives two grants totaling $465,000 to study deadly heart and lung diseases

Monday, December 10, 2012

A professor of biochemistry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler recently was awarded a total of almost half a million dollars to investigate the mysteries of serious heart and lung diseases.

Anna Kurdowska, Ph.D., received $325,000 from the Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute (FAMRI) to explore how second-hand smoke makes atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries – worse.

Atherosclerosis underlies most cardiovascular diseases as well as causing many cases of heart failure and stroke. While researchers know that second-hand smoke fuels the development and progression of atherosclerosis, they don’t understand how it does this.

With the three-year FAMRI grant, Dr. Kurdowska and her team hope to uncover the mechanisms that enable second-hand smoke to boost the development of atherosclerosis. If they can identify this process, they have a better chance of developing treatments that can interfere with it.

In addition, the American Heart Association (AHA) awarded Dr. Kurdowska $140,000 to investigate how white blood cells called neutrophils contribute to the development of acute lung injury (ALI), and its more severe form, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

There are no effective treatments for ALI and ARDS, which kill about 200,000 people in the United States every year. They are frequently found in people who have an illness such as severe pneumonia.

The lungs of patients with these conditions usually have abnormally high numbers of white blood cells called neutrophils. However, researchers don’t understand how neutrophils affect the development of these diseases.

Dr. Kurdowska and her team will use the two-year AHA grant to try and discover what role neutrophils play in ALI and ARDS. Their goal is to produce significant research that could lead to new and effective treatments.

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 more than $120 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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