UTHSCT awarded NIH grant for research in infections surrounding the lungs

Dr. Andrey Komissarov and his team.

The center for biomedical research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has been awarded a nearly $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue research on treating damaged lungs. The research will be conducted at the center for biomedical research and at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

These two institutions are exploring ways to degrade infected clots surrounding the lungs using sound waves in a process called sonofibrinolysis. Sonofibrinolysis will be combined with encapsulated fibrinolysins (clot busters) as an innovative approach to treat these infections which are known as empyema. Empyema is a mass of fluid made up of fibrin, immune cells, dead cells and bacteria that become lodged in the space between the chest wall and the lungs. This mass creates abrasions that produce scarring which causes pressure that stops the lungs from functioning properly.

The incidence of empyema, often caused by complications from pneumonia, is rising worldwide. Mortality approaches 20% in patients older than 65 years. The option of thoracic surgery, while effective, is invasive and depends on the skill of the surgeon. Moreover, up to 30% of elderly patients have other medical conditions making them poor surgical candidates.

Currently, the research in Tyler is to develop a carrier in which the correct amount of clot buster can be administered. Ultrasound is used to affect the structure of intrapleural fibrin and accelerate fibrinolysis before time-released medication encapsulated with liposomes is injected. The medication in the liposome capsules is activated using ultrasound, thus increasing the bioavailability of the active drug. This research will provide a nonsurgical alternative to treat empyema successfully and achieve lung expansion, giving hope to patients who otherwise have limited treatment options and face high risk of mortality.

The NIH grant will fund this new collaborative research project. The project will be led by Dr. Andrey Komissarov (Contact Principal Investigator), Dr. Galina Florova, Dr. Steven Idell and a team of young investigators at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, as well as by Dr. Melvin Klegerman (Principal Investigator) and his team at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01HL152059. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.