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Home | Tag Archives: National Institutes of Health

Tag Archives: National Institutes of Health

NIH Awards $2.7M Grant to UTEP Biology Professor to Study AIDS-associated Fungal Meningitis

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a $2.7 million grant to Luis R. Martinez, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences at The University of Texas at El Paso, to study a potentially life-threatening fungus and suggest possible treatments.

Martinez will investigate the basis for Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that invades the central nervous system (CNS), which controls many body functions. If it infects the lungs, it could develop into pneumonia for patients with weakened immune systems. It is the most common cause of fungal meningitis amongst AIDS patients.

The UTEP professor said he became intrigued with this fungus as a doctoral student. He noted how the fungus led to tumor-like lesions on brain tissue of affected patients.

The fungus, which resides in animals, plants and bird excrement, could infect people who inhale the fungal spores. Cryptococcal meningitis starts with flu-like symptoms but can be fatal if not treated quickly. Findings could prolong and improve the life of those affected.

“If we understand the predilected route C. neoformans uses to enter the brain, we can develop therapeutics to block this process,” Martinez said. “Also, by understanding microglial function – the immune cells of the CNS – during C. neoformans brain infection, we can design therapeutics to stimulate these cells to combat fungal colonization of the CNS.”

Martinez is the principal investigator of the five-year project. He uses high-resolution microscopy, mass spectrometry, histology, cell biology and immunological techniques at his UTEP research lab.

His UTEP collaborators are Igor Almeida, D.Sc., professor of biological sciences, and Arshad Khan, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences.

Other teammates include Michael Dores, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York; and Eliseo Eugenin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology and Anatomy at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

NIH to Fund UTEP Study into Anti-Depression Drug

The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences recently awarded a three-year, $400,000 grant to The University of Texas at El Paso’s Sergio Iñiguez, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, to study the possible long-range side effects of a drug treatment for pediatric depressive disorder.

Iñiguez’s research, “Enduring Effects of Juvenile Ketamine Exposure,” will examine the enduring neurobehavioral consequences of early life exposure to the painkiller ketamine.

The researcher, who is the project’s principal investigator, believes that juvenile ketamine exposure will make the individual more susceptible as an adult to drug addiction, memory loss and decreased sensitivity to stress.

“We need to know ketamine’s impact on the developing brain,” Iñiguez said. “We’re talking vulnerable populations, especially girls, who are three times more likely to suffer from depression.”

The UTEP professor said his research team includes three graduate students and four undergraduates who represent the departments of psychology, biological sciences, and chemistry and biochemistry.

Iñiguez called this research project an excellent training ground for students who can use the experience to develop their own studies as they move on to master’s and doctoral programs or enter into the neuroscience or pharmacological fields.

UTEP Assistant Professor Lands NIH Grant to Study Men’s Diabetes Risk

Jeannie Concha, Ph.D., assistant professor in UTEP’s Department of Public Health Sciences, received a $25,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health – National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), to identify factors related to men’s participation in diabetes prevention and self-care behaviors.

The data will be used to develop diabetes education programs for men and to enhance the services provided by the Diabetes Garage, a diabetes management program Concha designed for men in El Paso.

Concha will lead the study with co-principal investigators Hector Olvera, Ph.D., associate professor and director of research in the School of Nursing, and Robert Kirken, Ph.D., professor and dean of the College of Science.

The project will be in collaboration with UTEP’s Border Biomedical Research Center.

“The goal of the program is to engage men in self-care and recognize them as an influential family component when it comes to health,” said Concha, the study’s principal investigator and a UTEP faculty member since 2016. “Many health programs and research projects do not spend enough time finding novel ways to engage men, and this grant aims to do this by having men tell us how to do so.”

Men will complete a computer-based survey and be assessed for metabolic syndrome, a set of risk factors that increases their chance of developing serious conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

They will have their blood drawn to measure levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose and other diabetes risk markers. They also will have their blood pressure, waist circumference, weight and height assessed.

Apart from the study, Concha is recruiting men with diabetes to participate in the Diabetes Garage classes offered at the El Paso Diabetes Association (EPDA), located at 3641 Mattox St.

Created by UTEP in collaboration with the EPDA, Southwest University and University Medical Center, the program offers men a space to engage in diabetes management and self-care by using automotive maintenance and repair analogies.

Classes will be offered from noon to 1:30 p.m. July 21, July 28, August 4, and August 11.  Participants will receive $20, a $10 gas card, a Diabetes Maintenance Manual and Diabetes Essentials Toolbox with a glucose and blood pressure monitor.

To register, call the Diabetes Garage coordinator at 915-843-8964 or the EPDA at 915-532-6280.

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