UAB researcher receives $7 million R35 grant to study pathogenic exosomes in COPD

J. Edwin Blalock, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine, received a seven year $7 million R35 Outstanding Investigator grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the NIH for his project “Pathogenic Exosomes in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).”

“We essentially discovered novel protease-armed, pathogenic extracellular vesicles, of a size consistent with exosomes, that destroy lung tissue proteins, such as elastin and collagen, via neutrophil elastase on the exosome surface,” said Blalock.

This project describes a new extracellular entity, the pathogenic exosome, that is found in the lungs of all COPD patients but does not appear in the lungs of people who have never smoked. This type of exosome drives chronic inflammation, tissue damage, and cell death.

“For patients, these exosomes may represent a new and simple way to diagnose COPD,” said Blalock. “Disarming the exosome-associated proteases could be a new therapy for the disease.”

Moreover, these pathogenic exosomes could predict who is likely to develop COPD.

SourceUAB Heersink School of Medicine 

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