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Johns Hopkins Researchers Awarded $32 Million - 07/11/2011

Johns Hopkins Researchers Awarded $32 Million

New Programs of Excellence to study sugar molecules
Release Date: July 11, 2011
Gerald Hart, Ph.D.
Gerald Hart, Ph.D.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded two groups at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine each approximately $2.3 million a year for seven years to establish two Programs of Excellence in Glycosciences. Gerald Hart, Ph.D., director of biological chemistry and Ronald Schnaar, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences, will lead these independent efforts to better understand the roles of sugars in the molecular mechanisms of disease, particularly lung and heart diseases.

“These are not sugars in the diet, but sugar molecules that are found attached to proteins and other molecules in a cell and contribute to how cells communicate with each other,” says Schnaar.

The lung disease project led by Schnaar will focus on trying to understand the roles of sugar molecules in lung inflammatory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Sugar molecules on cells in the lungs bind to the immune system’s inflammatory cells turning off the inflammatory response. This team hopes to further investigate the anti-inflammatory properties of sugar molecules and harness this power to develop new treatments for lung diseases. The team collaborating on lung diseases includes Schnaar, Bruce Bochner, M.D., director of the Asthma and Allergy Center and Zhou Zhu, M.D., Ph.D., of medicine at the school of medicine; James Paulson, Ph.D., of The Scripps Research Institute; and Michael Tiemeyer, Ph.D., of the University of Georgia Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.

The cardiovascular disease project led by Hart aims to investigate the short-term protective properties of proteins decorated with sugars, or glycoproteins, from conditions like heart disease and stroke, and to explore why long term exposure to these same glycoproteins may be dangerous. The group will examine the glycoproteins made and released by heart cells and determine how over time they can contribute to heart failure. The researchers will also study how certain fats with attached sugar groups can progress hardening of the arteries that leads to heart damage and failure. The team collaborating on cardiovascular disease includes Hart; Subroto Chatterjee, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center; David Kass, M.D., of medicine; Jennifer van Eyk, M.D., director of the Hopkins NHLBI Proteomics Center and professor of medicine; Kevin Yarema, Ph.D., of biomedical engineering; Natasha Zachara, Ph.D., of biological chemistry; and Hui Zhang, Ph.D., of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and Allen Bush, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

For the Media

Vanessa McMains; 410-502-9410; vmcmain1@jhmi.edu
Audrey Huang; 410-614-5105; audrey@jhmi.edu
Maryalice Yakutchik; 443-287-2251; myakutc1@jhmi.edu

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