COLUMBIA — An $8.5 million grant will allow scientists at the MU School of Medicine to research the smallest blood vessels in the human body.
The grant will fund an $8.47 million research project on microcirculation. Gerald Meininger, principal investigator for the grant, said results of the study will be relevant to hypertension, diabetes and stroke research. It also relates to heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the nation.
Ronald Korthuis, chair of the Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology, agreed. “This work has the potential to reach across a vast array of different disorders.”
The blood vessels to be studied are thinner than a human hair and have walls that can be as thin as a single cell, according to a news release from the School of Medicine. They transfer gases, nutrition and hormones throughout the body and remove wastes from organs and tissues. The function of these vessels determines the health of the cardiovascular system.
Meininger said the grant will allow scientists to investigate the internal protein structure of these blood vessels. Vascular diseases affect this structure early on, so a better understanding of vessel structure will allow for a better understanding of disease.
The MU researchers spent five years planning and two years putting together the proposal in order to get the grant.
Korthuis said MU has one of the largest collections of microcirculation scientists in the world, recruiting seven additional researchers to work with the grant. The project will involve more than 20 scientists from across campus, according to the release.
MU has received more than $30 million in grants from National Institutes of Health since 1994, Churchill said. The Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology ranks 12th in the nation in terms of research grant funding.
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said the grant has helped transform MU into a competitive institution for cardiovascular research regarding high-resolution image analysis in microcirculation.
“We are the leaders in this respect,” he said.