UAMS receives $3.4 million to study radiation damage from nuclear accidents and bioterrorism

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Members of the UAMS research team embarking on a five-year, NIH-funded radiation study are (seated, left to right) Jerry Ware, Ph.D., Martin Cannon, Ph. D.; (standing, left to right) Rupak Pathak, Ph.D., Katherine McGinness, Regina L. Binz and Enoch K. Larrey.

The five-year study titled “Platelets in Radiation-induced Immune Dysregulation” is led by Rupak Pathak, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Division of Radiation Health at UAMS College of Pharmacy; Martin Cannon, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology in the UAMS College of Medicine; and Jerry Ware, Ph.D., professor of physiology and cell biology in the UAMS College of Medicine.

Although the FDA has approved some drugs to relieve bone marrow damage in people exposed to radiation, no drugs are available to treat adverse effects in other organ systems. The study hopes to spur the development of drugs for therapies that will reduce the side effects of radiation.

“Research is badly needed to understand the complex biology that occurs after radiation exposure,” Pathak said. “This work will identify therapeutic targets to minimize radiation sickness following exposure to high levels of radiation. If there is something we can apply after exposure to prevent immune dysfunction, we have a good chance. to limit injury in multiple organs.We believe we can find such countermeasures by studying how platelets moderate the immune response.

Platelets, which help form blood clots or stop bleeding, also regulate immune function by directly binding to immune cells or releasing small particles, called platelet-derived microparticles. Preliminary studies have shown links between radiation exposure, platelets and the immune response.

“We know that platelets have a few pathways that could influence radiation damage,” Cannon said. “We want to understand how to regulate these pathways and attenuate the inflammatory response. In very simple terms, we are looking for the on/off switch.

Radiation-induced immune damage often causes damage to the heart and intestine. The team, led by Pathak, will investigate whether damage can be reduced or blocked in these organs by altering the functions of immune cells or platelets, or by altering the platelet-immune cell interaction.

Marjan Boerma, Ph.D.

Marjan Boerma, Ph.D.

Ruofei Du, Ph.D.

Ruofei Du, Ph.D.

Rabab Hamzah, Ph.D.

Rabab Hamzah, Ph.D.

Study co-investigators also include:

  • Marjan Boerma, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Division of Radiation Therapy, UAMS College of Pharmacy
  • Ruofei Du, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics, UAMS
  • Yunmei Wang, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

This research is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, under award number 1U01AI170039-01.

UAMS is the only health sciences university in the state, with colleges of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, health professions, and public health; a doctoral school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwestern Arkansas Regional Campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute, and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses the entire clinical enterprise of UAMS. UAMS is the only Level 1 adult trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,047 students, 873 medical residents and fellows, and six resident dentists. It is the largest public employer in the state with more than 11,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide patient care at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s, VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit Where Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube Where instagram.


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