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DoD awards $312,000 to IUSM-NW-G researchers

Two-year study will work to identify new predisposing factors for asthma, lung inflammation

Wednesday Jun 29, 2016

Indiana University School of Medicine - Northwest – Gary researchers have been awarded a $312,000 grant from the Department of Defense (DoD).

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Roman Dziarski, Ph.D., will serve as the principal investigator for the two-year study, which begins July 1. Dziarski and his research colleagues, Dipika Gupta, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Des Kashyap, Ph.D., Research Associate in Microbiology, will study the “Control of Lung Inflammation by Microbiome and Peptidoglycan Recognition Protein.”

The project proposes to identify new predisposing factors for asthma and lung inflammation.

Dziarski said that the most effective long-term approach to diminishing the prevalence of asthma would be to reverse the upward trend by eliminating its causes. However, this cannot be currently accomplished, he said, becasue the causes of this increased prevalence are unknown.

Dziarski and his team will explore the possibility that one of the causes for the increasing prevalence of asthma are the changes in the types of bacteria that are normally present on the body, especially in the respiratory tract and in the intestinal tract (collectively called microbiome).

“These bacteria usually have beneficial effects for their host, but under some conditions beneficial bacteria may be lost and replaced with harmful bacteria that predispose the host to diseases,” Dziarski explained. “We propose in this project that such a change from beneficial to harmful bacteria increases the sensitivity to asthma. This project will test the hypothesis that Pglyrp1-controlled bacteria in the respiratory and/or intestinal microbiomes affect the sensitivity to asthma and lung and airways inflammation.”

Dziarski said that if the concept of controlling sensitivity to asthma by bacteria in the microbiome can be proven, it would translate into future development of new prevention and treatment methods for asthma and other inflammatory lung diseases.

“This would be accomplished by a new ability to change Pglyrp1 production or activity, and/or by increasing Pglyrp1-dependent asthma-protective bacteria, thus eradicating asthma-promoting bacteria in the respiratory and intestinal tracts,” he said.

Patrick Bankston, Ph.D., associate dean and director of IUSM-NW-G, praised the accomplishment, and added that the research being done by Dziarski and his team is especially significant for Lake County, Ind., where a recent study showed as having the most hospitalizations for asthma in the entire state.

“Of course,” he said, “the translation of Dr. Dziarski’s discoveries into clinical treatments will take some time, but this is how cures for diseases starts.”

The research will be conducted using a model of allergen-induced asthma, because about 50 percent of asthma cases are due to allergies.

The grant will pay for all the research expenses, including all research materials and supplies and salaries of faculty and scientists working on the project.

Dziarski said that the researchers will be recruiting undergraduate students from the Northwest campus to work on this project.

“We are extremely fortunate and honored that our project was selected for funding,” Dziarski said. “Research funding from the Department of Defense is highly competitive and only 5 to 10 percent of submitted proposals are funded, based on high quality of research, novelty of the research idea, and high potential for future application to improve health care.”

Asthma is one of the most frequent and most severe of allergic and inflammatory diseases. It affects 7 percent of the US population and its annual healthcare costs exceed $20 billion. The prevalence of asthma has been sharply increasing in the last several decades.

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