Dr. Cliff Boucher, assistant professor of biology at The University of Texas at Tyler, has received a two-year $80,000 primary research grant from the American Lung Association, Dr. Alisa White, UT Tyler College of Arts and Sciences interim dean, announced.
As the prime investigator, Boucher’s research will examine whether or not the Insulin-Cleaving Metalloproteinase Protein (IcmP) in the gram negative bacterium Puseudomonas aeruginosa is involved in causing disease. Specifically, it is thought that IcmP cleaves fibrinogen, which is found in many sites of the body including the lung. Fibrinogen serves as an agent in blood clotting and tissue repair.
“What I look at are proteins that are on the surface of the organism, in this case Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and what its function is in the infection process,” said Boucher. “Can it be involved in cleaving, or the breaking down, of fibrinogen? If fibrinogen is broken down, you would potentially affect blood clotting and scar tissue formation. This can impact tissue repair in the lungs, and lung function can become impaired.”
Puseudomonas aeruginosa, as a major opportunistic pathogen, causes diseases such as respiratory infections with cystic fibrosis patients. It has also been associated with other diseases including respiratory, eye, wound and urinary tract infections in cancer, burn and HIV patients.
“We’ll use a mouse animal model in UT Tyler’s new vivarium to find out if IcmP is important in the colonization of the lung. This is the first step in the establishment of a respiratory infection,” Boucher said.
For part of the animal model studies, Boucher will collaborate with Dr. Ali Azghani, UT Tyler associate professor of biology.
In addition, Boucher will determine whether IcmP directly affects host cells using cultured human cell lines. Experiments utilizing tissue culture make it easier to investigate certain aspects of the infection process, such as cytotoxicity, that are difficult with standard techniques, Boucher said.
“I’m excited,” Boucher added. “With the expansion of the university, we’re gaining more lab and research space, and we’re putting ourselves in a position to do some cutting-edge research. This allows the data collected, which is the foundation for future research, to be done in house. This is essential in obtaining these types of grants.”
The American Lung Association, as the oldest voluntary health organization in the United States, supports basic and clinical research through training and grant programs designed to further research in lung function and lung disease.
One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of nearly 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.