NIH Awards UAMS $606,274 to Research Cardiovascular Risks Associated with Kidney Disease

By Benjamin Waldrum

The one-year grant is an administrative supplement to the Arkansas IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Program, awarded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). IDeA refers to the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program, which builds research capacity in states that historically have had low levels of NIH funding.

Arkansas INBRE receives its primary support from a five-year, $18.4 million grant that was renewed in 2020. The grant continues support of INBRE’s efforts to expand and promote research at education institutions across the state. Lawrence Cornett, Ph.D., a distinguished professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Physiology & Cell Biology, leads the program.

“The supplemental funding that Arkansas INBRE receives through the NIH makes these kinds of collaborative projects possible,” Cornett said. “It is yet another example of the INBRE growing biomedical research infrastructure at UAMS and across the state.”

Arkansas INBRE works to expand biomedical research across the state in multiple ways. It offers annual research opportunities for undergraduate students and provides funding for faculty research at four-year state institutions, as well as the purchase of technology and the development of new research areas. While UAMS is the lead institution, INBRE grants and programs have impacted nearly all colleges and universities in the state.

The study, titled “Relationship Between Circulating Platelet-Derived Microparticles and Chronic Kidney Disease,” is led by Rupak Pathak, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the UAMS College of Pharmacy; Nishank Jain, M.D., MPH, associate professor of nephrology in the UAMS College of Medicine; and Jerry Ware, Ph.D., professor of physiology and cell biology in the UAMS College of Medicine.

Chronic kidney disease, sometimes called CKD, is a condition that results from damaged kidneys being unable to filter blood properly, which leads to waste and fluid buildup in the body. This can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and early death. CKD affects approximately 1 in 7 U.S. adults, or 35.5 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The team effort between Pathak, Jain and Ware will focus on platelets — the small, colorless fragments in blood that form clots and stop or prevent bleeding as part of the body’s defensive response to injury. Cardiovascular risk increases with platelet buildup, which can be worsened by the stress that kidney disease puts on the heart.

“When a patient has CKD, that activates platelets, which release very small particles in the blood,” Pathak said. “Our study will assess the difference in these microparticles between healthy subjects and patients with CKD, which will help us better understand how and when this process affects the progression of kidney disease.”

“It’s great that NIH has recognized the cross-disciplinary efforts of three scientific experts of differing backgrounds,” Ware said. “This synergistic effort will address unmet needs for patients with CKD.”

“Platelets are drones that modulate inflammation in the body, so they are the perfect choice for us to examine cardiovascular risks to patients with CKD,” Jain said. “The success of this team science work is rooted in support from the UAMS Translational Research Institute’s KL2 program and the collaborative work supported by INBRE.”

The Translational Research Institute is funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, Clinical and Translational Science Award UL1 TR003107.