Zhang Awarded Grants to Pursue Prevention

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UTHSC Assistant Professor Chunxiang Zhang, MD, PhD, has been awarded two grants to pursue vascular research that will aid in the understanding and treatment of diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease.

University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Assistant Professor Chunxiang Zhang, MD, PhD has been awarded two grants to pursue vascular research that will aid in the understanding and treatment of diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease. Dr. Zhang is also director of the university’s Vascular Injury Core Laboratory and works in the university’s Center of Excellence for Vascular Biology.

The American Diabetes Association’s three-year grant for $414,000 focuses on determining the role of a protein known as myeloperoxidase (MPO) in diabetic vascular complications. “The end game is to develop a therapeutic approach for treating complications of diabetes,” said Dr. Zhang.

An additional four-year, $260,000 grant from the American Heart Association was awarded to Dr. Zhang to determine the role of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) in the initial phase of development of atherosclerosis, the leading cause of death in the United States. “Our ability to understand the mechanisms involved in modulating vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) may provide a new therapeutic approach to atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, and stroke,” said Dr. Zhang.

“Vascular biology plays a vital role in the progression of many debilitating diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke; in fact, vascular disease is the most common cause of death and disability in Western societies. Dr. Zhang’s work could lead not just to treatment; but quite possibly to the prevention of seemingly inevitable complications of diabetes and heart disease. Support of basic science research through grant funding from such agencies as the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health is the only way medical science can make such breakthrough discoveries,” said Lisa K. Jennings, PhD, professor and director of the Vascular Biology Center of Excellence (VBCE) at UTHSC.

To date, the VBCE has organized approximately 100 investigators from more than 30 departments across the UTHSC campus and six institutions (including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Methodist Healthcare System, Baptist Memorial Hospital, the University of Memphis, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center to facilitate bench- to-bedside vascular biology research.