Researchers secure NIH grant to prevent heart disease in chronic kidney disease patients

Researchers at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) have secured a grant for $391,041 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that may allow for improved understanding of vascular calcification and prevent heart disease in chronic kidney disease patients.

Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in patients with chronic kidney disease. With decreasing kidney function, increased vascular calcification (the accumulation of calcium salts in the tissue of blood vessels) causes arteries to lose elasticity. To propose a therapy that improves survival in chronic kidney disease patients, the NYIT research team, led by Olga V. Savinova, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical sciences, NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM), will investigate the process of molecular calcification.

Biomedical researchers commonly accept that the enzyme phosphatase is responsible for increased calcification; this has been linked to atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of blood vessels. It is believed that when the gene for phosphatase, known as tissue-nonspecific alkaline phosphatase (TNAP), is overactive, the surplus enzyme produced causes arterial calcification. While no standardized treatment exists for vascular calcification, according to Savinova, this new study aims to validate these theories and suggest new therapies for heart disease.

"We anticipate our findings will support a new therapy for vascular calcification, a compound known as SBI-425, which robustly inhibits the TNAP enzyme," said Savinova. "Our long-term goal is to validate the effect of TNAP inhibition and set the stage for testing this compound as a viable pharmacological approach for chronic kidney disease."

The one-year study will examine calcification in both human cadavers and mice. In addition to observing evidence of calcification in human coronary arteries, the researchers aim to determine the mechanism by which TNAP overexpression in mice leads to arterial calcification. The latter aim is expected to lead researchers to test the pharmacological potential of TNAP inhibition in future clinical trials.

In addition to faculty members and medical students from NYITCOM, the cross-disciplinary research team includes an expert from NYIT's College of Engineering and Computing Sciences. Dorinamaria Carka, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering, along with an undergraduate engineering student, will perform computer simulations of blood flow dynamics in response to increased calcification. Other investigators include Maria Carrillo Sepulveda, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical sciences at NYITCOM, and Maria Plummer, M.D., pathologist and associate professor of clinical specialties, NYITCOM.

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