Indian American professor gets USD 1.6M grant to protect kidneys from obesity
Houston: Tahir Hussain, an Indian American professor of Pharmacology at the University of Houston, has received a grant of USD 1.6 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to examine a kidney cell that could prevent damage from inflammation caused by obesity.
The targeted cells express a protein called the angiotensin type 2 receptor (AT2R), which recently has been indicated to have anti-inflammatory and renoprotective actions.
If activated, the AT2R will protect against chronic and acute kidney injury, Hussain said.
Hussain, originally from India and an alumnus of the Aligarh Muslim University, will study the impact of inflammation in kidneys with active AT2R as well as 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."
To strengthen it, Hussain said he would use a drug that binds to it and activates it.
With one-third of the US population being obese, the NIH estimates that 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 already shown that AT2R activation with drugs promotes sodium excretion into urine, helping to lower blood pressure.
This is the first time the receptors role to protect kidney structure and function against injury in obese subjects will be investigated.
Hussain earned his B.Sc (Chemistry), M.Sc, M.Phil and Ph.D (Biochemistry) from the Aligarh Muslim University, in Aligarh, India, and Post-Doctorate (Pharmacology) from the East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.