UTHSC Associate Professor Kui Li, Phd, Receives $1.56 Million in Grants to Study Hepatitis C
Memphis, Tenn. (April 23, 2013) – Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a small, enveloped RNA virus that infects more than 130 million people worldwide. With the
help of two grants, totaling $1,560,000, a Memphis-based scientist aims to obtain a better understanding of HCV-host interactions and antiviral innate
immunity. Kui Li, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science
Center (UTHSC), and his research team will study virus-host interactions that regulate pathogenesis of the HCV infection and innate immune responses to RNA
virus infections. Grant support for this research is from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a subsidiary of the National
Institutes of Health.
HCV damages the liver slowly but progressively, causing chronic hepatitis in a majority of the individuals it infects, putting patients at risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. The natural immune response that people are born with is the front line of host defense against invading pathogens, but how it operates to defeat HCV and many other medically important RNA viruses remains elusive.
The first grant will support the study titled, “Role of TLR3 Signaling in Control of HCV,” and totals $1,147,500, which will be distributed over a
four-year period. A second grant, which covers the study “Role of TRIM56 in Antiviral Innate Immunity,” will be distributed over two years and totals
“The first grant award will allow us to continue our studies on the early interplay between HCV and the innate immune system, which will help us understand
the host intrinsic defense mechanisms against HCV as well as the mechanisms underlying HCV-induced liver inflammation and injuries,” said Dr. Li. “With the
support of the second grant award, we will be able to define the functions of TRIM56, a poorly characterized cellular protein which we recently found to be
a novel player in antiviral innate immunity. Our studies may potentially lead to new ways of treating viral infections.”
NIAID conducts and supports basic and applied research to better understand, treat, and ultimately prevent infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases.
For more than 60 years, NIAID research has led to new therapies, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and other technologies that have improved the health of
millions of people in the United States and around the world. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research
agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency
conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating
the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
As Tennessee’s only public, statewide academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is
to bring the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region,
by pursuing an integrated program of education, research, clinical care, and public service. Offering a broad range of postgraduate and selected
baccalaureate training opportunities, the main UTHSC campus is located in Memphis and includes six colleges: Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Graduate
Health Sciences, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. UTHSC also educates and trains cohorts of medicine, pharmacy and/or allied health students — in addition
to medical residents and fellows — at its major sites in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville. Founded in 1911, during its more than 100 years, UT Health
Science Center has educated and trained more than 53,000 health care professionals in academic settings and health care facilities across the state. For
more information, visit www.uthsc.edu.