Dr. Steven Olson, professor emeritus in the Center for Molecular Biology of Oral Diseases at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, has received a $3.12 million federal grant to continue research on these anticoagulant proteins that regulate blood clotting
and prevent abnormal clotting.
Blood clotting, or coagulation, is an important process that prevents excessive bleeding when a blood vessel is injured. A blood clot will normally dissolve once the injury has healed. However, clots can sometimes form on the inside of vessels without an obvious injury or
may not dissolve naturally, which can be life threatening and require treatment with anticoagulant drugs.
"Dentists need to understand how to manage patients who are being treated with anticoagulants, because of the risk for a heart attack, stroke or other abnormal blood clot," Olson said.
The eight-year MERIT award -- Method to Extend Research in Time -- is funded through the National Institute of Health's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. MERIT awards are among the most selective research grants given by the NIH, with only a small percentage of NIH-funded investigators selected as recipients.
Olson's research is also relevant to studies being conducted at UIC's Center for Wound Healing and Tissue Regeneration. Recent studies have shown that anticoagulant proteins that Olson is researching are inhibitors of the growth of new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. The anticoagulant proteins may act to regulate when and where new blood vessels form during the wound healing process, Olson said.
He and his research team are also investigating the role of serpins in cancer. His studies focus on the protein molecule antithrombin, a known inhibitor of angiogenesis and a potential antagonist of tumor growth, as well as maspin, a tumor suppressor protein which is down-regulated in many cancers.
"Because the anticoagulant proteins we work on are inhibitors of blood vessel growth, they represent potential treatments to block the spread of tumors," Olson said.
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