Instructor Weiqiang Zhang of UTHSC Receives More Than $1.8 Million Grant for Cystic Fibrosis Research

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Recently awarded more than $1.8 million from the NIH, Dr. Weiqiang Zhang and his research team are working to pave the way toward novel therapies for cystic fibrosis.
Recently awarded more than $1.8 million from the NIH, Dr. Weiqiang Zhang and his research team are working to pave the way toward novel therapies for cystic fibrosis.

Weiqiang Zhang, PhD, an instructor in the Departments of Physiology and Pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $1,874,750 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health, for research on cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a lethal genetic disease caused by the loss or dysfunction of a protein called the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). Chronic lung disease is the main cause of morbidity and mortality for CF patients. F508del is the most common genetic change and associates with a severe form of CF disease.

The grant, to be distributed over a five-year period, will be used to support a project titled, “Characterization of an Inhibitory Protein Complex for Cystic Fibrosis Therapy.”

In this project, Dr. Zhang and his research team will study the formation and regulation of a protein complex at the cell surface. The formation of such a complex will inhibit CFTR channel function and contributes to the severity of the disease. The goal is to help CF patients live longer and healthier lives through this innovative research.

They will identify novel compounds to target this complex to increase the channel function of the faulty F508del-CFTR protein and have direct clinical relevance in mitigating or curing CF. The study will help gain better understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying CF, expand our knowledge of the CFTR protein network, pave the way to novel CF therapies, and might have clinical relevance in combating other obstructive and inflammatory airway diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“I am very excited about this award because it will enable us to continue our research on finding an optimal therapy, or even better, a cure for cystic fibrosis,” said Dr. Zhang. “We also anticipate that the research will have clinical relevance in other obstructive airway diseases.”

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.