Uma Sundaram, M.D., vice dean for research and graduate education at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, has received a five-year $2.39 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study gastrointestinal absorption of amino acids, specifically glutamine, and its effects on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is particularly prevalent in West Virginia and the Appalachian region.
“I’m very excited that our team of researchers, led by Dr. Sundaram, has received this very important grant,” said Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. “It is an important boost to our existing research operation in that it provides new extramural funding, which is mission critical as we face declining state support.”
The project, “Regulation of amino acid absorption in the mammalian small intestine,” will look at the regulation of glutamine absorption in the intestine in relation to inflammatory bowel disease in hopes of developing better nutritional therapies.
The condition predisposes sufferers to a higher rate of colon cancer. According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, colon cancer is West Virginia’s second leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
“This project will tackle a very significant health issue in West Virginia,” said Sundaram, who is the Principal Investigator of the grant. “Our work will focus on immune-based nutritional treatment for IBD. It will also have a potential application for preventing the growth of colon cancers, which are more malignant and common in IBD, a condition that impacts our state and Appalachia.”
The team of investigators in Sundaram’s lab supported by this grant includes:
- Subha Arthur, Ph.D., assistant professor
- Balasubramanian Palaniappan, Ph.D., post-doctoral fellow
- Soudamani Singh, Ph.D., post-doctoral fellow
- Molly R. Butts, doctoral graduate student
Marshall University President Jerry Gilbert said the grant is an indication of the university’s growth in the area of externally funded research.
“Building a robust research platform is essential to our university’s growth and development,” Gilbert said. “The school of medicine and its leadership are to be commended for their hard work and dedication in fostering an environment conducive to garnering funding for substantial academic research.”
The RO1 grant is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by the NIH and is considered the most prestigious. This RO1 is the largest grant of its kind to date for the university.