Close to $6 Million in Government Grants Fund Heart/Lung & Cancer Research
ALBANY, N.Y., May 21, 2012—Researchers at Albany Medical College’s Center for Cardiovascular Sciences (CCS) have recently received close to $6 million in National Institutes of Health grants to fund research related to the basic workings of the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, especially as it relates to cardiovascular disease and lung disease such as asthma.
“To receive this highly competitive funding is quite an achievement for our investigators and speaks to the quality and the public health importance of the work being conducted in our laboratories. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States, and it’s vital to continually enhance our knowledge and develop new ways to treat people,” said Vincent Verdile, M.D., dean of Albany Medical College and executive vice president for health affairs.
“The basic physiology of the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems is understood. But we hope that better understanding heart, lung and vascular disease at the cellular, molecular and genetic levels will lead to improved treatments and better disease prevention,” says Harold Singer, Ph.D., professor and director of the CCS.
The studies being funded include:
Jiliang Zhou, M.D., Ph.D., received a $2 million, 5-year grant to continue his research on vascular smooth muscle, muscle cells located in arteries and veins. These cells normally allow arteries and veins to contract and relax, regulating blood pressure and blood flow throughout the body. However, abnormal growth of muscle cells can result in enlarged blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and other conditions. Specifically, Zhou is focused on the Hippo signaling pathway that plays a critical role in regulating the growth and proliferation of smooth muscle cells. At the heart of the research is identifying molecular components of the Hippo pathway that could be targets for new drugs or therapies aimed at regulating cell growth and preventing or stopping vascular disease.
Yong-Xiao Wang, M.D., Ph.D., received a $1.5 million, 4-year grant to investigate the underlying causes of pulmonary hypertension, a devastating condition seen in patients with lung disease or altitude sickness. Wang says the molecular processes leading to the development of pulmonary hypertension remain elusive, and very few treatment options are available. He aims to study the role of Rieske iron-sulfur protein, a key molecule regulating the contraction of smooth muscle, in the development of pulmonary hypertension.
Dale Tang, M.D., Ph.D., received a $2 million, 5-year grant to gain more knowledge about how smooth muscle contraction is regulated and why it becomes “hyper-responsive” in asthma. Tang compares smooth muscle contraction to the moving of a car, which needs both an engine and a transmission system. Current asthma treatments focus on the structure and function of the “engine,” however his project is aimed at understanding the components and control of the “transmission system,” an understudied area that he believes will lead to development of new types of asthma drugs.
Another CCS investigator, Margarida Barroso, Ph.D., received a $377,000, 2-year grant to develop a new tool to enhance targeted drug delivery in cancer patients. Targeted drug delivery is desirable because it brings anti-cancer drugs directly to a site of a tumor, reducing side effects to other parts of the body. In her research, Barroso is using whole body tomographic imaging to visualize the uptake of a drug carrier protein called transferrin that easily binds to tumors. The goal is to eventually develop drug delivery systems individualized to each patient’s tumor for aggressive and successful therapy.
Overall, biomedical research at Albany Medical College is funded with a total of approximately $24 million in grant money from the government and private institutions.
Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 651-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals, and which also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with 325 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: www.amc.edu or www.facebook.com/albanymedicalcenter.
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