UT Health Science Center at Tyler receives $1.9M grant for lung research

UT Health Science Center at Tyler receives $1.9M grant for lung research
UT Health Science Center Grant

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Researchers at University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler have received a grant worth more than $1.9 million.

The grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The science center says the funds will be used to research how lung scarring occurs in the space around the lung between the lung and chest wall.

UT Health Science Center announced the news in a statement Wednesday.

“The objective is to identify new ways to prevent scar formation to allow the lung to properly expand and function,” Dr. Steven Idell, said. “Essentially, we are working to restore the lung’s functionality after injury, just as well as it did before.”

Idell is the senior vice president for research and dean of the School of Medical Biological Sciences.

The grant is expected to fund jobs in the labs.

Read the full release below:

"The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler announced today the awarding of a four-year grant totaling over $1.9 million from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The grant - proposed by Dr. Mitsuo Ikebe, chair for cellular and molecular biology, Dr. Steven Idell, senior vice president for research and dean of the School of Medical Biological Sciences and Dr. Torry Tucker, associate professor of cellular and molecular biology - is slated to research how lung scarring occurs in the pleural space, or the space around the lung between the lung and chest wall, specifically in the context of lung infections.

The trio of principal investigators (PI) will collaborate to explore how a specific molecule, myocardin, contributes to scar formation in the pleural space. Using imaging, molecular biology and biochemistry, the team will study how myocardin regulates cell differentiation, that is the production of variant types of cells. The molecule has been implicated in the alteration of structures within cells, which contributes to scar formation.

“The objective is to identify new ways to prevent scar formation to allow the lung to properly expand and function,” said Dr. Steven Idell. “Essentially, we are working to restore the lung’s functionality after injury, just as well as it did before.”

The nearly $2-million grant project is derivative of a much smaller grant from three years ago, which totaled approximately $10,000. “That $10,000 birthed a collaboration between my lab and Dr. Ikebe’s lab,” commented Dr. Torry Tucker. “We have two completely different flavors of science, but with that grant we started working together and were able to identify a novel molecule that had not been investigated in any type of lung fibrosis. We made substantial progress within that first year, so we applied again and received another $10,000 for the second year. With the studies conducted for the past three years, we ended up writing a grant that was very well received by the NIH.”

Dr. Tucker also commented on the economic impact that the grant holds for Tyler, “I think it is important to note that while the research is exciting, this grant also goes back directly into our community, funding multiple jobs within each of our labs.”

The cadre of PIs is unique in itself; each one specializing in different areas of research, which provided different approaches to the issue and afforded greater discoveries. “When I first listened to the seminar presented by Drs. Tucker and Idell, they stated that the alpha-smooth muscle actin gene is a marker of pleural fibrosis. Lung fibrosis was out of my research field, but I had been working on the function of smooth muscle and I knew that the alpha-smooth muscle actin gene is a marker of smooth muscle differentiation. Immediately, I thought there may be a

correlation between my field and theirs,” commented Dr. Ikebe. “Now, our research has successfully yielded a paper of high impact and is funded by this NIH RO1 grant. This is a great success story of how collaboration by investigators from different research areas can create ideas and breakthroughs in research that might otherwise never happen.”

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