Public Release: 

Georgia State biologist gets $1.9 million from NIH to fight cardiovascular disease

Georgia State University

Ming-Hui Zou has received a four-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to fight cardiovascular disease.

As a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and the founding director of the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine at Georgia State University, Zou studies the roles of oxidant signaling and oxidative damage in cardiovascular systems. He is well recognized for making influential discoveries in cardiovascular research, including identifying the roles of several key proteins involved in the vessel pathology that leads to vascular disease.

This award will allow Zou to further examine the role of 5' adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase or AMPK, a key molecule that plays a role in cellular energy balance. To create energy for the body, AMPK takes in glucose, burns fatty acids and creates new mitochondria.

Mitochondria, which are membrane-bound bean-like organelles found in most eukaryotic cells, are the powerhouse of the cell because they play a major role in energy production, cell survival and many other vital cellular functions.

"To fulfil these functions, mitochondria form a highly dynamic network in the majority of cells where they constantly undergo fission to allow for segregation of damaged mitochondria, and fusion to allow exchange of material between healthy mitochondria," Zou said. "How this process is regulated is poorly characterized."

Zou will begin a series of in vitro studies and the outcome is expected to unravel important details in the interplay between mitochondrial structure and function.

"Our proposed studies will provide new insights into a crucial step in the initiation of cardiovascular disease and whether a new strategy will be discovered to protect against the development of vascular disease in diabetic patients," he said.

Zou's laboratory is funded with over $26 million from the National Institutes of Health through 2020. He also has competitive grants totaling $17 million from other organizations, including the American Heart Association.

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