UAMS professor awarded $1.8M for groundbreaking research

A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences professor has been awarded $1.8 million.
A University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences professor has been awarded $1.8 million.(Source: KNWA-TV)
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 11:47 AM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNOE) - An associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has been awarded $1.8 million by the National Institutes of Health to continue groundbreaking research in the treatment of epilepsy and other neurological diseases.

Fang Zheng, Ph.D., was awarded the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke award of $385,995 on March 1, which is to be followed by annual awards of $372,745 for each of the following four years, for a total of $1,876,975 over five years.

Zheng said initial research has focused on the underlying mechanisms of neurovascular coupling dysfunction, which happens when the connection between blood flow and neurons in the brain stops working normally.

He said he wants to test a theory that seizure-induced inverse hemodynamic response (IHR) is affected by regulatory activity in the cells that make up the lining of the blood vessels. He theorizes that disruption of the activity may reduce susceptibility to seizures.

“The studies rely on complementary areas of expertise pooled by a research team with expertise in cerebrovascular reactivity, epilepsy and neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration,” Zheng said in his grant proposal.

Collaborating with Zheng in the study are Paul Drew, Ph.D., and Kevin Phelan, Ph.D., professors in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Neurobiology and Developmental Sciences, and Fabrice Dabertrand, Ph.D., an associate professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, Colorado. Drew also is an assistant dean for research at the UAMS College of Medicine.

“Dr. Zheng’s research is unique because it focuses on abnormalities of the cerebral circulation as a major contributing factor to epilepsy rather than focusing on neurons as the cause of the disease,” said Nancy Rusch, Ph.D., distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. “His research raises the possibility that treatments directed at restoring normal function to small cerebral blood vessels may reduce the number and severity of epileptic seizures.”

This research is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01NS126473.