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Indian-American gets USD 1.6 m grant for research on kidney cells

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Houston, May 8 (PTI) An Indian-American professor has received a grant of USD 1.6 million for his research on kidney cells that can protect the organ from chronic inflammation caused by obesity.

Tahir Hussain, a professor of Pharmacology at the University of Houston, received the grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for his research on cells that release a protein called angiotensin type 2 receptor (AT2R), which recently has been indicated to have anti-inflammatory and reno protective actions.

If activated, the AT2R will protect against chronic and acute kidney injury, said Hussain, an alumnus of the Aligarh Muslim University.

He will study the impact of inflammation in kidneys with active AT2R in relation with those with no AT2R.

“What I’m proposing in this grant is that certain cells in the kidney can protect the kidney itself,” he said.

The expression of AT2R in the body is inherently low and hence “weak”, Hussain said, adding that “but because we know it has anti-inflammatory activity, we want to pump it up”.

Hussain said to strengthen it, he would use a drug that binds to it and activates it.

With one-third of the US population being obese, the NIH estimates the annual cost to manage or treat obesity-associated disorders to be as high as USD 125 billion. These disorders include chronic as well as acute kidney injury (AKI).

Chronic kidney injury is the result of progressive loss of kidney function leading to irreversible damage, while AKI occurs as an abrupt loss of kidney function and usually is reversible.

In both processes, inflammation plays a significant role in the initiation and maintenance of the injury.

“Obesity is associated with low grade chronic inflammation in the body,” Hussain said.

He added he was hopeful that his research would one day work to stop kidney diseases caused by inflammation.

“Once we study and better understand AT2R as a target, making new prevention drugs would be easy,” he said.

Earlier, Hussain had shown that AT2R activation with drugs promotes sodium excretion into urine, helping to lower blood pressure.

This is the first time the receptor’s role to protect kidney structure and function against injury in obese subjects will be investigated.

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