HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has awarded a Marshall University scientist a two-year, $194,400 grant.
The grant to Dr. Hongwei Yu, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at the university's Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, will help further his lab's work to explore the factors that control the overproduction of mucus in the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients.
According to Yu, chronic bronchial pneumonia caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a life-threatening condition for patients with CF.
"During these infections in CF patients, the bacterium is capable of producing copious amounts of alginate—a thick, sugar-like polymer that plugs the airways, making breathing difficult," he said. "The alginate also helps form a thick, slimy 'biofilm' around the colonies of bacteria, protecting them from the body's immune defense mechanisms and making antibiotic treatment less effective."
Yu said the long-range goal of his research is to better understand the mechanisms of how this bacterium regulates production of the alginate biofilms in order to develop a more effective treatment option to inhibit or suppress the formation of alginate biofilms in the lungs of CF patients.
"For this project, we will be accessing the relevance of two newly identified proteins that act as alginate regulators. Once the mechanisms controlling alginate production are fully understood, it may be possible to improve treatment of these bacterial infections in CF patients by modulating or suppressing that production," he added.
Dr. John Maher, Marshall's vice president for research, congratulated Yu and praised him and his team for obtaining the grant.
"Dr. Yu's work is an excellent example of the vital research here at Marshall University that can affect the health and welfare of people everywhere. Research in his lab has the potential to have a real impact on the quality of life for people with cystic fibrosis," said Maher.
Maher also noted that Yu's research has had a regional economic development impact, saying his work has led to a patent and the development of Progenesis Technologies LLC, a West Virginia-based biotech research and development company. A second patent is pending.
Prior to joining Marshall in 1999, Yu was on the research faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School. In addition to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, his work has been funded by NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is the world's leader in the search for a cure for cystic fibrosis. The foundation funds more CF research than any other organization, and nearly every CF drug available today was made possible because of foundation support. Based in Bethesda, Md., the foundation also supports and accredits a national care center network that has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a model of care for a chronic disease. The CF Foundation is a donor-supported nonprofit organization. For more information, go to www.cff.org.
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