Quentin Felty, associate professor at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, has been awarded a $439,500 grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study stem cells lining the lung vessel wall in persons with pulmonary arterial hypertension. PAH occurs when the very small arteries throughout the lungs narrow in diameter, which increases the resistance to blood flow through the lungs.
According to lung.org, pulmonary arterial hypertension affects about 15 to 50 people per million in the United States. PAH remains a serious disease with significant morbidity and mortality because current therapies are currently focused on improving heart function and pulmonary blood flow rather than the growth of cells within the vessels.
Working with the Pulmonary Hypertension Breakthrough Initiative Research Network, the collaborating agency for clinical samples, Felty will focus his research study on how stem cells become abnormal and look for ways to treat the abnormal growths.
The goal is to find treatments for PAH that may use interventions and medications that are currently approved and available on the market, most likely those used to treat cancers.
“Given that PAH and cancer cells share stem cell similarities, our research project brings an emerging paradigm in PAH pathology to potentially exploit therapeutic strategies used in cancer to treat PAH,” said Felty. “Essentially, new PAH therapies can come from existing drugs.”
The project includes a National Institutes of Health Academic Research Enhancement Award grant that will support the research while exposing students to the project and strengthening the research environment at Stempel College.
“Because of our rapidly increasing student demand to participate in biomedical research and limited funding, Stempel College students are positioned to benefit from this research,” said Felty. “The Academic Research Enhancement Award will provide resources for students at all levels to engage in meritorious research that will have direct effects on human health and disease, and will inspire and prepare students for future careers in biomedical sciences.
“Specifically, it will generate more support to the still growing research area of environmental health sciences to study how the epigenome affects disease susceptibility.”