$10 million grant to support pulmonary hypertension study

By Staff

A team of physicians and scientists led by a pulmonologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus has been awarded a $10.2 million, four-year federal grant to support a lung bank that will provide improved research opportunities into the causes and potential treatments for lung disease.

Mark Geraci, M.D., professor of medicine and head of the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, will lead the Pulmonary Hypertension Breakthrough Initiative, which was recently awarded the grant by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Rubin Tuder, M.D., professor of medicine at the CU School of Medicine, oversees the tissue processing center.

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension is a lung disease in which blood pressure increases in the lung’s pulmonary artery, making the heart work harder to pump blood into the lung. PAH is very rare with an annual incidence of 1 to 2 per million and occurs more often in women. While some patients have been found to have a hereditary predisposition to the disease, the cause remains unknown. Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension is difficult to diagnose and there are limited available treatments and no cure.

The Pulmonary Hypertension Breakthrough Initiative will provide a network of investigators to enroll patients who, at the time of lung transplantation, will donate their tissue and cells for future research. With the lung tissue, researchers are able to develop cell lines from patients affected by pulmonary hypertension and use the latest research to investigate the genetic and other causes for the disease.

“The initiative allows us to take genetic discoveries made in the last 15 years and apply them functionally to patient samples and cells,” Geraci said. “Ultimately, our goals are more effective treatments, prevention, and a cure.”

Geraci said the grant extends a project that was initially established in 2006 by the nonprofit Cardiovascular Medical Research and Education Fund, which has supported Drs. Geraci and Tuder with $3.2 million. The project relied on the active participation of a network of university-based sites with extensive expertise in providing clinical care, lung transplants, pathology, genetics, genomics and cell isolation.