Stephen Smiley, Ph.D., a member of the scientific faculty at the Trudeau
Institute, whose research could lead to new treatments for several common
diseases, has been awarded a research grant from the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) for nearly $2 million.
Dr. Smiley and members of his
laboratory are working to develop treatments for a number of diseases where an
abnormal activation of blood coagulation pathways causes damage to the body. The
diseases include multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, transplant
rejection and sepsis, a leading cause of hospital deaths. In particular, Dr.
Smiley's laboratory is studying fibrin, a blood-clotting protein that frequently
accumulates at high levels in diseased tissues. These high levels of fibrin are
thought to clog blood vessels and cause inflammation, thereby starving tissues
of oxygen and increasing the severity of disease.
With prior funding
from the NIH, Dr. Smiley's laboratory collaborated with Trudeau colleague Larry
Johnson to demonstrate that, despite the risks it poses, fibrin also performs
critical protective functions during immune responses.
showed that fibrin deposition is essential for survival during certain
infections. Specifically, they found that fibrin staunches bleeding caused by
protective immune cells as they rid the body of infected cells. In addition to
protecting against this collateral damage caused by the immune system itself,
Drs. Smiley and Johnson also discovered that fibrin suppresses the growth of
some unhealthy bacteria.
These prior studies led the scientists to
hypothesize that the human body needs to maintain a careful balance of proper
fibrin levels during immune responses: "Some fibrin deposition is essential for
good health, while too much can be dangerous and harmful," explained Dr. Smiley.
"I'm very pleased the NIH is continuing to support Dr. Smiley's
research," said David L. Woodland, Ph.D., president and director of the Trudeau
Institute. "Cutting-edge research of this caliber has the potential to lead to
improved treatments for people afflicted with a number of debilitating diseases,
in addition to those who suffer transplant rejections."
believes that prior attempts to treat patients suffering from sepsis by removing
fibrin failed because those treatments most likely removed both unhealthy and
healthy fibrin. With this infusion of research funds, Dr. Smiley's laboratory
will now seek to identify what exactly tips the balance between healthy and
unhealthy levels of fibrin. They recently discovered that cytokines, soluble
signaling molecules within the immune system, play a primary role in regulating
this balance. Now they are using a variety of models and methods to delineate
precisely how cytokines regulate fibrin levels.
The NIH funds will
support Dr. Smiley's research efforts over a four-year period.
----------------------------Article adapted by Medical News Today
from original press release.
Trudeau Institute is an independent, not-for-profit biomedical research
organization with a scientific mission to make breakthrough discoveries leading
to improved human health. Trudeau researchers are identifying the basic
mechanisms used by the immune system to combat cancer and infectious diseases,
such as influenza and tuberculosis, so that better vaccines and therapies can be
developed. The research is supported by government grants and philanthropic
Source: Brian Turner Trudeau