Pinpointing molecular signatures and ways to render cells hypoxia-tolerant are among goals of the project.

The National Institute of Health’s Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute awarded Gabriel G. Haddad, M.D., from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine $10 million to study the impact of low oxygen levels on cells and tissue in the heart, lung, and brain.

Dr. Haddad is chair of the department of pediatrics at the UCSD School of Medicine and physician-in-chief at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. He will lead a collaborative team of investigators from UC San Diego and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.

The project aims to study the adaptive mechanisms to hypoxia in cardiovascular and respiratory systems at both cellular and molecular levels. It will also evaluate the fundamental genetic mechanisms of tolerance in a Drosophila (fruit fly) model. The researchers will also work to modulate or manipulate molecular mechanisms in mammalian cells/tissues/animals to render them hypoxia-tolerant after learning from a tolerant organism, e.g., the fly. Additionally, they expect to identify molecular signatures of hypoxia tolerance and susceptibility that may be predictive clinically.

“Understanding the molecular, cellular, and genetic mechanisms that contribute to low oxygen tolerance or susceptibility will have a major impact on our treatments of central nervous system and cardio-respiratory diseases such as stroke, myocardial ischemia/infarction, obstructive sleep apnea, and pulmonary hypertension,” Dr. Haddad notes.

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