UT researcher receives $465K in grants to study heart, lung diseases

TYLER (KYTX) - A professor of biochemistry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler recently was awarded a total of almost half a million dollars to investigate the mysteries of serious heart and lung diseases.

Anna Kurdowska, Ph.D., received $325,000 from the Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute (FAMRI) to explore how second-hand smoke makes atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries – worse.

Atherosclerosis underlies most cardiovascular diseases as well as causing many cases of heart failure and stroke. While researchers know that second-hand smoke fuels the development and progression of atherosclerosis, they don't understand how it does this.

With the three-year FAMRI grant, Dr. Kurdowska and her team hope to uncover the mechanisms that enable second-hand smoke to boost the development of atherosclerosis. If they can identify this process, they have a better chance of developing treatments that can interfere with it.

In addition, the American Heart Association (AHA) awarded Dr. Kurdowska $140,000 to investigate how white blood cells called neutrophils contribute to the development of acute lung injury (ALI), and its more severe form, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

There are no effective treatments for ALI and ARDS, which kill about 200,000 people in the United States every year. They are frequently found in people who have an illness such as severe pneumonia.

The lungs of patients with these conditions usually have abnormally high numbers of white blood cells called neutrophils. However, researchers don't understand how neutrophils affect the development of these diseases.

Dr. Kurdowska and her team will use the two-year AHA grant to try and discover what role neutrophils play in ALI and ARDS. Their goal is to produce significant research that could lead to new and effective treatments.


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