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Two UT Health Northeast biomedical faculty members receive grants from foundations to support their research

May 7, 2014

Two biomedical researchers at UT Health Northeast recently received grants to support their investigations of deadly lung conditions.

Sreema Shetty, Ph.D.

Sreema Shetty, Ph.D.

Sreerama Shetty, Ph.D., received a two-year, $140,000 grant from the American Heart Association (AHA), and Usha Pendurthi, Ph.D., was awarded a two-year, $100,000 grant from the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF).

The AHA grant enables Dr. Shetty to study how the body’s system to break up blood clots affects lung injury and the resulting scarring, called pulmonary fibrosis. His goal is to understand the biological mechanism behind lung injury and repair.

Each year, about 50,000 new cases of pulmonary fibrosis are diagnosed in the United States, and some 40,000 people die from it, according to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. There is no cure and current treatments are not very effective.

Dr. Shetty and his team hope their research will lead to better ways to protect the lungs from injury and prevent scar tissue from forming.

Usha Pendurthi, Ph.D.

Usha Pendurthi, Ph.D.

With her MARF grant, Dr. Pendurthi will explore how an anti-clotting protein may help slow the growth of malignant pleural mesothelioma, a highly aggressive cancer that attacks the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall.

Exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of pleural mesothelioma, though the disease often doesn’t develop until 30 or 40 years after the exposure occurred. Current treatment includes radiation or chemotherapy and/or surgery, but there is no cure.

Previous studies by Dr. Pendurthi’s team have shown that curbing inflammation with an anti-clotting protein reduced mesothelioma cells’ ability to become tumors. The MARF grant will support the researchers’ efforts to further understand how this process works.

For 65 years, UT Health Northeast has provided excellent patient care and cutting-edge treatment, specializing in pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, and primary care. Its annual budget of $150 million represents a major economic impact of over $347 million for Northeast Texas. Since 2004, scientists in the Biomedical Research Center have been awarded more than $122 million research dollars. As the university medical center for Northeast Texas, its graduate medical education programs – with residencies in family medicine and occupational medicine – provide doctors for many communities across the state and beyond. It also sponsors the residency program in internal medicine at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview. For more information, visit www.uthealth.org.

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