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FIU receives $1.8 million National Institutes of Health grant to further research in kidney-related cardiovascular disease
Josh Hutcheson, PhD, seated at right, and Amirala Bakshiannik, PhD, seated at left, are joined by other members of the Hutcheson Cardiovascular Matrix Remodeling Lab at FIU, as they celebrate Bakshiannik's recent successful defense of his PhD. The Lab is performing research in kidney-related cardiovascular disease.

FIU receives $1.8 million National Institutes of Health grant to further research in kidney-related cardiovascular disease

May 2, 2022 at 11:51am

Josh Hutcheson, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Florida International University’s College of Engineering & Computing, has been awarded a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to support his research into a common and often-lethal condition in people with chronic kidney disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among the 37 million people in the U.S. who have chronic kidney disease (CKD). The NIH grant will support Hutcheson’s research into calcification in the blood vessels that can lead to heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems for those with CKD. Hutcheson’s research focuses on decreasing the build-up of calcification, which may have a significant health impact.
“An imbalance of calcium and phosphate, and a decrease in kidney function in patients with CKD, can lead to hard plaque in the blood vessels,” Hutcheson said. “We are still trying to understand the mechanism that causes the formation of this bone-like mineral. The fact that we have identified commercially available drugs that seem to stop the process, however, is very encouraging.”
The drugs, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors, are commonly used in the treatment of cancer patients. Because they are already approved by the FDA for that purpose, it is possible for Hutcheson and his research team to move forward more quickly than if they were working with drugs still in development.
Research in the Hutcheson Cardiovascular Matrix Remodeling Lab at FIU taps into the cellular process and how cells sense and respond to each other and to changes in their environment.
“We had a real breakthrough when my first Ph.D. student, Amirala Bakhshiannik (now a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical College of Wisconsin), had the idea of targeting a particular protein that is associated with calcifications elsewhere in the body,” Hutcheson said. “We began experimenting in cells in culture, and when we added the EGFR inhibitor, the calcification was gone.”
The NIH grant, titled “Targeting the Caveolae-Dependent Mechanism of Calcifying Extracellular Vesicle Formation,” will allow Hutcheson and collaborator Jin He, associate professor from the Department of Physics, to continue advancing their novel cardiovascular research. Earlier research in the lab has been supported by the Florida Heart Research Foundation, the American Heart Association and the National Science Foundation.