The University of Alabama and Southern Research have formed a collaborative research alliance which has resulted in a slate of jointly funded research initiatives which include:
Asthma Study: This study — led by SR principal investigator Javier Campos-Gómez, Ph.D., research associate biologist in the Department of Infectious Diseases, Drug Discovery Division, and UAB principal investigator Beatriz León, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology — is based on the observation that human lung infections with the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa are associated with more severe chronic cases of asthma and allergic sinusitis.
This suggests that the bacteria make people more susceptible to allergic airway inflammation, and that treating the lung infection could prevent severe asthma attacks. However, P. aeruginosa is often resistant to antibiotics.
Campos-Gómez and León will investigate a different way to stymie P. aeruginosa, by probing the molecular basis for increased susceptibility to allergic inflammation and asthma in infected patients. They have preliminary evidence that a certain metabolite of P. aeruginosa may affect the immune response to allergens, and this could offer a new path to treatment therapies.
Vaccine Study: This study — led by SR principal investigator Raj Kalkeri, Ph.D., MBA, subject matter expert for infectious disease research in the Drug Development Division, and UAB principal investigator Braden McFarland, Ph.D., instructor in the Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology — starts with the understanding that the bacteria found in the human gastrointestinal track are necessary for the development of our immune system. However, 85 percent of bacteria found in the guts of laboratory mice are not found in the guts of humans, implying that vaccine efficacy evaluation with regular laboratory mice might not translate to humans.
Kalkeri and McFarland hope to bridge this knowledge gap through vaccine evaluation in humanized microbiome mice — mice that have human donor bacteria in their gastrointestinal tracts. This might be a better model to test potential human vaccine efficacy, as well as help reveal how gut microbes affect vaccine protection.
Safety of Therapeutic Drugs: This study — led by SR principal investigator Babu L. Tekwani Ph.D., distinguished fellow and chair of infectious diseases in the Division of Drug Discovery, and UAB researchers in the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, Jennifer A. Croker, Ph.D., director of Administration, and Robert P. Kimberly, M.D., director — involves the hereditary condition called glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase, or G6PD, enzyme deficiency that affects more than 400 million people worldwide.
This enzyme deficiency can make people susceptible to drug-induced hemolytic anemia, and it can also limit use of several important drugs in public health. Yet development of safer drugs for these 400 million people has been hampered by lack of suitable experimental models for the enzyme deficiency.
Tekwani and colleagues will establish a model for the enzyme deficiency in humanized-immunocompromised mice, and then investigate the mechanism of drug-induced hemolytic anemia. This mouse model also should be useful to develop safer drug alternatives. Tekwani and his group are working on improving the safety of antimalarial drugs in populations with G6PD deficiency.
The collaborations between UAB and SR fits one of the goals of UAB’s strategic plan, Forging the Future — to empower innovative research, scholarship and creative activities that drive knowledge creation focused on improving society.