Martins Receives $2.2 Million in NIH Grants
Gislâine Martins, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and biomedical sciences in the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute (IBIRI), has received two federal grants totaling more than $2.2 million to study immune cell function in chronic inflammatory conditions. Both grants were awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.
Research funded by the first grant, for $2.1 million, will focus on the role of the protein Blimp-1 (encoded by the PRDM1 gene) in controlling the function of immune cells such as T lymphocytes. Using genetically altered mice models generated in her laboratory, along with a variety of cellular and molecular techniques, Martins will seek to identify the molecular pathways regulating lymphocyte "decisions" that culminate in protection against or development of autoimmune diseases.
Ultimately in this study, Martins hopes to identify new regulatory pathways that later can be explored to develop experimental therapies for chronic inflammatory conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – a group of conditions involving the colon and small intestine affecting more than 2 million Americans.
The study funded by the second grant, for $165,000, will examine whether mutations of the PRDM1 gene contribute to the development of IBD, and if so, how. The research will use immune cells from IBD patients obtained through collaboration with Dermot McGovern, MD, PhD, the institute’s director of translational medicine, from a database maintained by the IBIRI. The research institute is under the direction of Stephan R. Targan, MD, who is also director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center and the Division of Gastroenterology at Cedars-Sinai and holds the Feintech Family Chair in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Martins hopes that this study’s findings potentially may help predict IBD outcomes and also identify pathways regulated by PRDM1 in human immune cells that later can be explored as therapeutic targets.
"These awards will allow my laboratory to conduct the mechanistic studies required for the understanding of how Blimp-1 works and potentially will let us identify pathways controlling human T lymphocyte function," Martins said. "These are fundamental steps in the effort to develop new therapeutic approaches to treat severe chronic inflammatory conditions."