Four Ph.D. scientists at UT Health Northeast in Tyler, Texas — Vijay Rao, Krishna Vankayalapati, Sreerama Shetty, and Hong-Long Ji — were recently awarded a total of $2.1 million in grants to conduct research in several fields.
Rao, a professor of biochemistry in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, was awarded a four-year grant of $1.43 million by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research on how blood clots are formed in conditions such as stroke and heart attack.
“If a person is in good health, blood passes through blood vessels with ease and doesn’t form clots,” Rao said in a UT Health news release. “But in atherosclerosis, infections, or cancer, blood cells or cells that line the blood vessel walls begin producing a substance called tissue factor, which starts the clotting process.”
The NIH grant will support the research of Rao and his colleagues into how diseases transform tissue factor and turn on blood clotting, leading to heart attack and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every four deaths a year in the U.S. are due to heart disease.
Vankayalapati, who chairs the Department of Pulmonary Immunology and is a professor of microbiology and immunology, received a two-year NIH grant of $385,852 to study why people with HIV are more susceptible to tuberculosis infection. Vankayalapati and colleagues will try to advance the development of treatments to prevent inactive or latent TB from evolving into an active infection in people with HIV. The CDC estimates that one-third of the world’s population has tuberculosis.
Shetty, a professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, was awarded a two-year grant of $140,000 by the American Heart Association to conduct research on treatments for lung fibrosis. He and his colleagues are studying how a chain of amino acids interact with another element in lung cells to regulate lung scarring.
Lung scarring, or lung fibrosis, occurs when scar tissue thickens in the walls of the lungs, decreasing the body’s oxygen supply, and those who suffer from lung fibrosis experience a shortness of breath. In the U.S., 40,000 people a year die from the disease.
Ji, an associate professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology, was awarded a two-year grant of $140,000 by the American Heart Association to study how fluid builds up in injured lungs, a condition also referred to as pulmonary edema. Ji and colleagues aim to help develop new therapies for this disease.