Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock have been awarded a $2.97 million, five-year grant by the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases. The funding will help investigators investigate a possible treatment for the long-term health effects from injury caused by exposure to high levels of radiation.
Dr. Marjan Boerma, one of three principal investigators, is an associate professor in the radiation health division in the College of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The project is one of the next steps in research performed for many years by Dr. Martin Hauer-Jensen and other investigators in the radiation health division. Hauer-Jensen is a co-investigator on the research team and the director of the radiation health division.
“Between the strong team in the division and the substantial expertise of the other investigators, I’m confident we will build on that legacy to find some answers to questions we all have about treating the delayed effects of radiation injury,” Boerma said in a UAMS news release.
An accidental exposure to a high-level of radiation may injure a person in an industrial setting, for example. Even when that patient recovers from the immediate, negative health effects of the radiation injury, often delayed health effects can show up months or even years later, Boerma said in the release.
A drug — activated protein C — has been shown in earlier research by Hauer-Jensen to be effective in treating the immediate effects of radiation injury. The research team will examine whether it also can be effective against those long-term effects.
“We’ve seen some real health benefits from this drug in research before,” Hauer-Jensen said. “Because of improvements in the treatment of radiation injury over the years, patients have a higher chance of survival initially and in the short term, so now we need to see if we can use it to protect them from the delayed effects of radiation injury, too.”
The study will focus primarily on how activated protein C might improve the health of the vascular system in the heart and brain of a person affected by radiation injury.
In addition to Boerma, the other principal investigators are: Dr. Hartmut Weiler, a senior investigator in the Blood Research Institute at the BloodCenter of Wisconsin; and Dr. John Griffin, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research Institute in California.
In addition to Hauer-Jensen, co-investigators are: Dr. Antiño Allen, assistant professor in the radiation health division in the UAMS College of Pharmacy; Dr. Reid Landes, associate professor in the biotastics department in the UAMS College of Medicine; and Dr. Amrita Cheema, co-director of the Proteomics and Metabolomics Shared Resource at Georgetown University.