29 May Medical College researchers win federal grants
Wauwatosa, Wis. – Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin have won federal grants for scientific study in three areas, including personalized drug therapy.
Grants also were awarded to examine the impact of vascular disease on sickle cell disease, and to research links between high blood pressure and kidney disease.
Researcher Michael Stephens received a five-year, $634,500 pharmacogenetics grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to study personal drug therapy. Dr. Stephens, assistant professor of pediatrics, will apply the grant to identify common genetic variants of key transporters of a class of drugs known as thiopurines.
Thiopurines are used in the treatment of cancer, arthritis, irritable bowel disease, and immune suppression. In an attempt to improve individualized treatment strategies with thiopurines, Stephens will examine their impact on therapeutic response in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
The performance of these drugs varies significantly, and they have a high rate of toxicity and treatment failure. By understanding how genetic variation impacts drug transporter function, the medical community may be able to improve, and personalize, treatment strategies that include thiopurines.
Hammer to sickle
Medical College researchers Kirkwood Pritchard and Cheryl Hillery will use a $1.89 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the impact of vascular disease on sickle cell disease. Pritchard, a professor of pediatric surgery, and Hillery, an associate professor of pediatrics, are the co-principal investigators for this study.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood condition found most commonly in people of African ancestry and in the tribal populations of India. In sickle cell disease, patients have unusual red blood cells that are sickle shaped, and the “sickling” of the red cells is related to low levels of oxygen that alter the structure of hemoglobin, a substance that binds oxygen in the lungs and delivers it to peripheral tissue.
The severity of sickle cell disease varies from person to person. Some with sickle cell trait lead normal lives while others are susceptible to severe pain, overwhelming infection, and other serious complications.
With this grant, Pritchard and Hillery will study the interactions between inflammation, HDL function, and pro-inflammatory lipids in an effort to identify downstream “partners” that team up with the sickling red cells to impair dilation of blood vessels. Their findings could lead to new treatment options that prevent vascular dysfunction, characterized by oxidative stress and inflammation, in a variety of diseases.
Researcher Allen W. Cowley Jr., chairman and professor of physiology at the Medical College, secured a five-year, $2.87 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the impact of high blood pressure on kidney injury.
Cowley, the principal investigator, will use the grant to explore the consequences of elevated arterial blood pressure on kidney injury in rats. An understanding of these consequences could lead to new therapeutic approaches for the prevention of kidney disease in patients with high blood pressure.