ATLANTA—Georgia State University has received two four-year grants totaling nearly $6 million from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for research to identify a therapy that can counteract atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque in the arteries, and research to promote the regeneration of damaged vascular tissue after a heart attack or stroke.
Ming-Hui Zou, professor in the Institute of Biomedical Sciences and director of the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine, is the lead investigator on the projects.
A $2.9 million grant will fund research on the protein MKP-1, which can cause narrowing of the blood vessels, thickening of the arterial walls and increased plaque formation when activated. Zou and his co-investigator Ping Song, associate professor in the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine, will seek to develop a therapy that can counteract the effect of MKP-1 by blocking its activity.
A $2.7 million grant will support the study of SNRK, a protein in the endothelium, or the cells that line the interior walls of blood vessels. During ischemia, when a part of the body such as the brain or heart isn’t getting enough blood, the protein becomes activated to promote the normalization and regeneration of vascular tissue. Zou and Zhonglin Xie, associate professor in the Department of Biology, are collaborating to find a way to use the protein to stimulate therapeutic angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels, after heart attack or stroke.
In February, Zou and Xie co-authored a study in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biologythat examined the function of SNRK in angiogenesis in mice. The study uncovered that SNRK is involved in angiogenesis in normal physiological function as well as disease, established a novel pathway by which SNRK is activated to promote angiogenesis and confirmed the protein as a potential therapeutic target to treat ischemic diseases.
“Therapeutic angiogenesis is a promising treatment for ischemic vascular diseases, which are a leading cause of mortality and disability around the world,” Zou said. “But we need a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in order to develop effective therapies.”