Jones Awarded NIH Grant for Lung Research

Heather Jones, MD

Heather Jones, MD, director of the Critical Care Intensivist Service at Cedars-Sinai and assistant professor of medicine, has received a $690,255 grant from the National Institutes of Health for lung research.

The five-year, mentored grant will fund Jones' study, "IL-1beta in the Development of Hypoxemia in Acute Lung Injury," which will seek better understanding of the interactions between inflammatory cells and the regulation of blood flow and oxygenation of the blood in the lungs during acute lung injury.

Blood flow in the lungs of mouse models treated with the bacterial toxin LPS to induce acute lung injury (right) is significantly reduced compared with untreated mice, as shown in SPECT images.

Specifically, Jones will use mouse models to study the role of a molecule called interleukin 1beta, or IL-1β, which is a potent inducer of inflammation and injury. Jones is interested in understanding how this molecule may be aggravating the very low oxygen levels seen in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome by affecting the blood vessels in the lungs.

Jones' primary mentor for the grant is Moshe Arditi, MD, professor and executive vice chair for research in the Department of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology. Other mentors and collaborators include Paul W. Noble, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine and director of the Women's Guild Lung Institute; and William C. Parks, PhD, executive vice chair for research, scientific director of the Women's Guild Lung Institute and professor of medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine and biomedical sciences.

Acute lung injury, which can be fatal, is better known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This disease starts suddenly in patients who are usually ill for some other reason, such as a severe pneumonia or other severe infection, but it also can occur in the setting of trauma, the inhalation of foreign material into the airways or other illness. It can develop over the course of hours, and once it starts, patients develop extreme shortness of breath and low oxygen levels and usually require intubation and mechanical ventilation. There currently are no treatments to prevent or cure ARDS.

Jones, principal investigator on the study, said she hopes her research will help improve patient care. "If we can understand the specific problems in the lungs associated with very low oxygen levels during acute lung injury, we can specifically address these issues to improve oxygenation in our patients and potentially improve outcomes in a deadly disease with 30 percent mortality," she said.

Jones' grant, known as a KO8, is designed "to provide the opportunity for promising medical scientists with demonstrated aptitude to develop into independent investigators, or for faculty members to pursue research aspects of categorical areas applicable to the awarding unit, and aid in filling the academic faculty gap in these shortage areas within health profession's institutions of the country," according to the National Institutes of Health.