Grants for Three Scientists at UT Health Northeast

Posted/updated on: September 11, 2013 at 2:18 am

TYLER — Three biomedical researchers at UT Health Northeast recently received separate grants of more than $300,000 each to fund important studies in the areas of lung disease and blood clotting. The grant recipients and the amounts of their three-year grants are Amir Shams, Ph.D., $325,500 from the Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute (FAMRI); Sreerema Shetty, Ph.D., $325,500 from FAMRI; and Hema Kothari, Ph.D., $308,000 from the American Heart Association.

Dr. Shams, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology, is investigating if a naturally occurring substance that stimulates the lungs’ immune system can protect against deadly pneumonia caused by Staphylococcus aureus in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD, which is primarily caused by years of cigarette smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, the American Lung Association says. For people with COPD, preventing bacterial and viral respiratory infections helps them avoid serious flare-ups of the disease. Dr. Shams and his team want to see if this substance will protect people with COPD from developing life-threatening infections of S. aureus bacteria.

Dr. Shetty, a professor of medicine, is examining how a protein that causes cells lining the lungs to die regulates another protein involved in the blood-clotting process. His goal is to understand how the interactions of these two proteins affect the health of the cells lining the lungs and their ability to fight off influenza.

Finally, Dr. Kothari is studying why blood clots often occur in concert with diseases such as hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), diabetes, and cancer. For the past seven years, Dr. Kothari has been involved in understanding how tissue factor (TF) is regulated. TF is the substance that starts blood clotting in the event of injury or infection. Normal healthy cells lining the inside of blood vessels don’t activate the TF on their surfaces, so blood doesn’t clot and block blood flow. However, in diseases like diabetes and cancer, the TF in these cells becomes active, producing blood clots that can lead to strokes and heart attacks.

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