METRC Research Projects

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Collaborative Research Projects are conducted by seasoned clinical and translational scientists, the projects show promise for productive scientific discovery within our core mission of advancing Health Disparities research for under represented populations.

 

Pilot Projects are funded by MeTRC in order to provide preliminary data leading to larger scale applications in Clinical and Translational research activities.

Mechanism of HIV-1 Infection of Urinary Podocytes in HIVAN

Waldemar Popik, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine and

Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research

Podocytes, cells in the kidney that help filter blood, do not have the same molecules on them that HIV uses to infect other cells, yet HIV patients with a certain genetic mutation suffer from rapid kidney failure. This project has shown how HIV can still damage the kidneys of these patients, overwhelmingly African American, and is working on refining a way to detect the genetic mutation using urine instead of a kidney biopsy in order to make early diagnosis easier.

Characterizing GBV-C E2 protein for anti-HIV drug design

Bindong Liu, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine and

Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research

A harmless virus, called GBV, shares many characteristics with HIV but without causing disease. This project is trying to control GBV so that it might be used to deliver drugs straight to cells that HIV infects. This would make treatment more effective and less expensive and have fewer side effects.

CD55, Vitamin D3, and Race in Preterm Labor

Stella Nowicki, D.D.S.

Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Preterm labor, associated with increased infant death, affects about 12 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. and occurs more often in minority women, especially among African American women in Nashville. This study is exploring a link between hormones dependent upon Vitamin D and preterm labor. Results may indicate that proper nutrition or Vitamin D supplements could alleviate preterm labor.

Molecular mechanism of cardiac fibrosis induced by Trypanosoma cruzi infection

Pius N. Nde, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Typanosoma cruzi is a parasite common to South and Central America and has been making appearances in the United States. The parasite causes Chagas Disease, a condition in which many patients die of heart failure. This research has discovered a protein produced by the parasite that damages the heart. This discovery may lead to a way to interfere with that protein.

Role of Autophagy in HIVAN pathogenesis

Waldemar Popik, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine and

Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research

While HIV may be able to use a trick of the immune system to enter kidney cells without actually infecting them (see Mechanism of HIV-1 Infection of Urinary Podocytes in HIVAN above), it may also use what is called an ‘accessory protein’ to make kidney cells self-destruct. This study is trying to define how this happens so that a drug might be designed to stop kidney damage in HIV patients.

In vitro model for the effects of BV on vaginal epithelium HIV infectivity

Donald Alcendor, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Microbiology and Immunology and

Member, Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research

Public health researchers have known for a long time that women with bacterial vaginosis, a condition in which the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina become unbalanced, leading to an infection, are at a higher risk of acquiring HIV. This study is revealing how a few specific species of bacteria disrupt the vaginal immune system, making it easier for HIV to get past the body’s natural defenses.

Prevalence and correlation of Porphyromonas gingivalis and Streptococcus cristatus

Hua Xie, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Oral Biology and

Member, Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research

This project explores how two different bacteria common in the mouth interact. Porphyromonas gingivalis is a bacterium responsible for gingivitis, a condition in which the gums and bones around the teeth become infected, ending in tooth loss. Streptococcus cristatus creates a chemical that makes it difficult for P. gingivalis to group together below the gumline and might be used to prevent the development of gingivitis.

A Novel Target for Developing Anti-HIV Inhibitors

Xinhong Dong, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of  Microbiology and Immunology  and

Member, Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research

HIV hijacks proteins in the patient’s cells and uses them to make virus copies. This project is looking for a way to interfere with how the virus uses a specific human protein to actually build more copies.

Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Due to Disregulation of BRCA2 Expression

Smita Misra, Ph.D.

Instructor, School of Graduate Studies and Research

The gene BRCA2 has been shown in recent years to have a significant influence on breast cancer. Mutations in the gene, most common in African American women, are associated with aggressive cancers. This work has identified a protein overproduced as a result of these mutations and suggests that it is causing the aggressive cancers. If the details of this protein can be understood, new drugs might be able to stop its effects.

Comparative Genomic Sequencing in Multi-Resistant Acinetobacter Baumannii Phenotypes

L. Leon Dent, M.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Surgery

Taking advantage of the cutting edge Proteomics Core of the MeTRC, this project has identified the genetic sequences of several kinds of drug-resistant bacteria, which might help identify their origin and better ways to treat them.

A comprehensive approach to Type 2 diabetes self-management for low-income women

Sylvie Akohoue, Ph.D., CNS

Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine

This study is testing a self-management program coupled with a dedicated liaison to help keep diabetic women on track with exercise and diet to control their Type 2 diabetes.

Evaluation of calcium sensing receptor variants as prognostic markers for aggressive breast cancer

Amos Sakwe, Ph.D.

The most aggressive types of breast cancer occur most frequently in young African American women. These kinds of cancer are very difficult to treat, and identifying them early often improves the outcome of the disease. This research is looking at a unique chemical that might be used to identify early on if a woman has this kind of cancer.

Impact of Oral Microbes on Pregnancy Outcomes in African American and Caucasian Women

Chandrasekhar Thota, M.D.

This study, funded by a special American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) supplement to the MeTRC program, seeks to define how bacteria living in the mouth can get into the bloodstream and negatively impact pregnancy. Preterm labor is a significant problem among African American women, and oral health may play a part in this disparity.

Ovarian hormones and β-arrestin1 during major depression in reproductive women

Tultul Nayyar, Ph.D.

This project focuses on the influence of female hormone fluctuations on the development of major depressive disorder, which is more common in women than men. Identifying which hormones have the largest affect may help refine treatment options.

Improving adoptive immunotherapy in breast cancer

Anil Shanker, Ph.D.

The body continuously tries to control the appearance of cancer, and cancerous cells continuously try to suppress the body’s immune system. This research is attempting to stop tumor cells with a one-two drug punch. One treatment makes the cancer cells easier for the body to kill, and another treatment amps up the body’s cancer killing cells.

Racial/ethnicity differences on Vitamin D, Nitric Oxide synthesis & function in pre & postmenopausal and women vasculature

Pandu Gangula, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Physiology

Vitamin D is used in many ways to keep the body healthy and is related to hormone production and fluctuation in women. This research is showing how low levels of vitamin D, common among African American women, may be contributing to the hypertension more commonly diagnosed among black women than white women.

Proteomics analysis of HIV-1 Preintegration Complexes (PICs)

Chandravanu Dash, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology and

Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research

As antiretroviral drugs keep HIV patients alive longer, we see the rise of drug-resistant HIV. In order to keep ahead of these mutations in the virus, new ways of using drugs to interfere with the virus’s reproduction cycle must be developed. Working with MeTRC’s cutting edge Proteomics core facility, this project is identifying proteins used by the virus to insert itself into human DNA. Once identified, drugs might be designed to stop this process.

Pericytes and Cytomegalovirus Neuropathology in Congenital Disease

Donald Alcendor, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Microbiology and Immunology and

Member, Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus that is associated with the vast majority of congenital diseases and is most common among minority and low-income populations. This research has identified several genes in cells of the blood-brain barrier that CMV seems to change, which may result in birth defects.

The role of Gag-AP-3 interaction in HIV-1 target cells

Xinhong Dong, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and

Member, Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research

HIV must go through several biochemical steps to force an infected cell to make a copy of the virus. One of these steps takes the new virus copy to the cell surface where it will be released into the body. This project is identifying how viral proteins interact with human ones to accomplish this. Once identified, small pieces of proteins, called peptides, can be designed that might stop the cell from carrying new virus copies to its surface.

Female fertility preservation using peripheral blood stem cells

Anthony Archibong, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Physiology

Many cancers that occur in women of reproductive age often result in infertility after treatment with chemo or radiation therapy. This project is exploring if the use of peripheral blood stem cells, a non-embryonic source of stem cells, can help protect women from, or repair, the effects of cancer treatment on fertility.

A questionnaire to assess biospecimen donation among African Americans

Kushal Patel, Ph.D.

Nationwide, the availability of blood and tissue specimens from African Americans is very low, preventing critical research to improve the health of black communities. This project looks to identify attitudes among African Americans that negatively impact donating tissue for research.

Impact of Oral Microbes on Pregnancy Outcomes in African American and Caucasian Women

Chandrasekhar Thota, Ph.D.

Instructor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Risk of concurrent use of herbs & conventional drugs in breast cancer patients

Yong Cui, M.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine

Molecular Determinants of Green Tea Nonresponsiveness

Sunil Halder, Ph.D.

Former Instructor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology