Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation investigator Jasimuddin Ahamad, PhD, has received a $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Supporting research into aortic valve stenosis, a dangerous heart condition impacting hundreds of thousands of Americans alone, the five-year study grant award helps a prominent research institution investigate potential treatments—none exist today.
Aortic valve stenosis occurs in about 2% of the population over 65. It is the result of the narrowing of the exit of the left ventricle of the heart (where the aorta begins), such that problems result. This condition can also occur at the aortic valve as well as above and below this level. This narrowing of the valve makes the heart overwork—worsening over time, symptoms only grow severe. It can lead to death.
The Investigators Discover TGF-beta1
With a lab at OMRF, Ahamed investigators how fibrosis, the formation of scar tissue, can impact the heart. Him and team in Oklahoma City have uncovered a naturally-occurring protein associated with cardiac and aortic valve fibrosis, which of course can usher in heart function deterioration leading to the deadly heart failure. Called TGF-beta1, it is associated with this cardiovascular condition.
New Money Helps to Pursue the Research
Lijun Xia, MD, PhD and head of Cardiovascular Biology Research Program at OMRF is pleased that Dr. Ahamed was able to earn this NIH-based award. The department head believes that Ahamed’s research will help “provide mechanistic insight into aortic stenosis that may lead to new therapeutic interventions for deadly disease.”
Now with significant capital—$2.1 million—Dr. Ahamed can leverage the existing research momentum and focus in on potential therapies to ultimately develop new treatments for patients.
Utilizing Novel Methods
Dr. Ahamed will utilize a novel method developed to investigate various compounds that may slow down or even halt the disease process. He commented, “Our new, highly predictive experimental model can be used to test drugs to prevent the progression of this disease by targeting it in its initial stages.”
The Goal: A Major Breakthrough in Heart Health
Dr. Ahamed is thinking big—fully aware of the mission and mandate of medical research: to make an impact and ultimately help save more lives. He and team’s “discovery of the role of platelet TGF-beta1 in aortic valve fibrosis was novel, but if we can find a way to inhibit this process and step in with a therapy, it would be a major breakthrough in heart health for our aging population.”
The grant has been awarded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, (NHLBI) part of the NIH.
OMRF was founded as a non-profit organization in 1946 with the mission of conducting basic biomedical research to help people live longer, healthier lives. OMRF scientists are dedicated to understanding and curing human disease and focus on such critical research areas as lupus, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
From OMRF’s inception, the institute’s scientists have focused on making laboratory breakthroughs that have a tangible impact on human health. Researchers at OMRF made discoveries that proved crucial to the creation of the protease inhibition cocktails that have added decades to the lives of patients suffering from HIV/AIDS. OMRF discoveries have given birth to a drug to treat children suffering from a life-threatening deficiency of protein C. Work in OMRF labs also led to the creation of Soliris, the first and only treatment for a rare blood disorder known as PNH. A drug with OMRF roots became the first drug licensed under the European Union’s centralized procedure. And their investigators have created diagnostic and disease management tests for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis that are used in hospitals and clinics around the world.
OMRF scientists also advance the understanding and treatment of human disease by publishing the results of their research in internationally respected publications like The New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Science and Cell. Their researchers have published papers on topics that range from brain cancer to heart disease, diabetes and lupus.