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Monday, April 25, 2005
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Ohio University duo receives American Heart Association grant

ATHENS, Ohio (April 25, 2005) -- When people catch colds, their doctors usually tell them to drink some orange juice, take a decongestant and wait for it to go away.

While they wait, their white blood cells swim through their veins to their sick, mucous-lathered parts and attack the viral invaders.

But in some body parts and with some diseases, the white blood cells stick to the blood vessels, gumming up the pipes. This phenomenon is generally called pathological inflammation and can lead to serious problems, such as heart disease.

Douglas Goetz, associate professor of chemical engineering at Ohio University?s Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, recently received the prestigious American Heart Association's Established Investigator Award. Along with the honor of being singled out as a national leading researcher, Goetz received a five-year, $500,000 grant to study new treatments for heart disease based on our understanding of white blood cell adhesion to blood vessels.

"This is a once-in-a-career-kind of honor," said Goetz.

With the funds, Goetz, in collaboration with Leonard D. Kohn, a distinguished senior research scientist at the Edison Biotechnology Institute and the Watson Chair for Diabetes Research at Ohio University?s College of Osteopathic Medicine, will conduct a three-part study into the treatment of atherosclerosis, a process that involves inflammation of the arteries of the heart which, over time, can lead to heart attacks. For one part, they will study the causes of the inflammation, specifically how blood vessels become sticky.

They will also test a drug carrier, a particle designed to target new or existing medications, via adhesion chemistry, to sites of pathological inflammation and only to these sites. In other words, the carriers would bring the medication only to the body parts that need it and nowhere else.

The carrier, developed with Justin Hanes of Johns Hopkins University, is comparable to a tiny, biodegradable basket, and would help to minimize the amount of drug needed and thus lessen adverse side effects of the drugs.

Third, Goetz and Kohn, will test a potential new medication for heart disease.

"We've identified a compound that could be a new drug for heart disease," Kohn said. "This drug and the carrier might work together, they might not, but independently they are both very good ideas."

They are such good ideas that the pair said their research so far suggests that the drug might be able to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases.

"We published work in August that indicates the compound inhibits inflammation, which makes it potentially applicable not just to atherosclerosis, but to all types of inflammatory disease, including arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases, such as colitis," Goetz said.

The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, educates well-rounded professionals with both technical and team-project skills. The Russ College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees across the traditional engineering spectrum and in technology disciplines such as aviation, computer science, and industrial technology. Research areas currently receiving significant funding include avionics, fuel cells, bioengineering, oil and gas pipeline corrosion, and environmental pipes and culverts. Named for alumnus Fritz Russ and his wife Dolores, the Russ College is home of the Russ Prize, one of the top three engineering prizes in the world. For more information, visit www.ohio.edu/engineering.  

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Media Contact: Russ College Director of External Relations Colleen Girton, (740) 593-1488 or girtonc@ohio.edu, or Media Specialist Jack Jeffery, (740) 597-1793

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