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Dr. Steve Lim, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently was awarded a $154,000 two-year research grant from the American Heart Association to study treatment options for vessel-narrowing diseases.
Dr. Lim's research aims to gain insight into the role focal adhesion kinase (FAK) plays in smooth muscle cell (SMC) plasticity via epigenetic gene expression. “Excessive growth of vascular SMC is a fundamental problem in occlusive cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis,” Dr. Lim explained. “In many cases, abnormal SMC growth following medical intervention, such as balloon angioplasty or bypass surgery, also results in re-narrowing of the vessel.”
According to Dr. Lim, there is a need to develop better and more efficient systemic treatment options that would work on smaller arteries and vessels, as current treatment options for vessel-narrowing diseases are limited to large-sized arteries and are only effective in a small area.
Through previous research, Dr. Lim found that FAK activity is critical in promoting SMC proliferation. “Targeting FAK activity with small molecule FAK inhibitors might prove beneficial in preventing abnormal SMC growth,” Dr. Lim said.
Dr. Lim said this research has the potential to greatly impact patient care. “Since there is currently a lack of therapeutics for the treatment of small vessel occlusions, which commonly occur in diabetic patients, this research could provide a new therapy for those patients,” Dr. Lim said. “Oral FAK inhibitors are currently being tested in human clinical trials as a cancer therapy; they might also prove helpful in treating these vascular complications.”
The research is a collaboration between several researchers at USA including Dr. David Weber, associate professor of physiology at the USA College of Medicine; Dr. Erin Ahn, associate professor of oncologic sciences; and Dr. Jung-Hyun Kim, a postdoctoral fellow working in Dr. Ahn’s lab at the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.
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