Amarillo Researcher Receives $2.9 Million NIH Grant

Paul Trippier, Ph.D., Vardan Karamyan, Ph.D., and Thomas Abbruscato, Ph.D.

Left to right: Paul Trippier, Ph.D., Vardan Karamyan, Ph.D., and Thomas Abbruscato, Ph.D.

As a researcher, Vardan Karamyan, Ph.D., an associate professor for the School of Pharmacy in Amarillo, is motivated by many factors, including a desire to contribute to the world’s collective knowledge database about treating strokes.

“Stroke affects about 2 percent of the population in the United States and imposes substantial economic burden on the health care system and society in general,” Karamyan said. “Today, we have only one drug - tissue plasminogen activator - used for the treatment of ischemic stroke, and there is an urgent need to develop new therapies for this disorder.”

To help uncover and develop those much-needed therapies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded Karamyan and his collaborators a five-year, $2.9 million grant for research titled, “Development and characterization of peptidomimetic small molecule activators of peptidase neurolysin for stroke therapy.” The grant is for an RO1 multi-PI (primary investigator) project that includes Karamyan and fellow Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences researchers Thomas Abbruscato, Ph.D., and Paul Trippier, Ph.D., as the multi-PIs. Abbruscato serves as the department’s chair and Trippier is an assistant professor.

Karamyan said previous studies conducted by his laboratory revealed that a peptidase called neurolysin can function in the mouse brain after stroke to minimize stroke damage, and his team also discovered two small molecules that can enhance neurolysin activity.

Karamyan in the lab

Karamyan in the lab

“Based on these findings, in this collaborative grant proposal between my lab and those of Drs. Abbruscato and Trippier, we will develop potent and selective ‘drug-like’ activators of neurolysin which will be used as research tools to study their potential for treatment of experimental stroke in mice,” Karamyan explained. “In addition, the knowledge about the mechanism or mechanisms governing the activation of neurolysin by small molecules may be translated to other peptidases and enzymes, and that activation bears therapeutic potential.”

Karamyan’s work in the laboratory also is motivated by a love for teaching and training students. He said his current research assistant, Srinidhi Jayaraman, a graduate student for the School of Pharmacy’s Graduate Program in Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been a key contributor in the research project that led to this latest NIH grant.

“Her genuine interest, devoted work and good luck hugely contributed to our discovery of neurolysin activators,” Karamyan said.

Karamyan said Hideki Aihara, Ph.D., from the University of Minnesota also is a key collaborator to the project. Aihara is an expert in crystallography, which deals with the structure and properties of protein crystals.

“I want to empathize the true collaborative nature of our project,” Karamyan said. “Drs. Trippier, Abbruscato and all parties brought in unique expertise and contributed substantially to the current project and it would be very hard to obtain this grant award without their collaboration.”

Related Stories

How Does Your Garden Grow?

As spring approaches, some people’s thoughts turn to gardening. Whether it’s a flower garden they desire or a vegetable garden want to have, they begin planning what they’ll plant and what they need to do to ensure a successful garden.

Adopt a Growth Mindset for a Better Life

A “growth mindset” accepts that our intelligence and talents can develop over time, and a person with that mindset understands that intelligence and talents can improve through effort and learning.

Drug Use, Family History Can Lead to Heart Disease in Younger Adults

Abstaining from drug abuse and an early diagnosis of familial hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) can help prevent heart disease.

Recent Stories

Education

Combat and Communication: Serving Veterans Through Speech Language Pathology

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs employs 459 speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and offers services to over 158 sites of care throughout the VA Health Care System.

Education

GMES: Explore Medicine without an M.D.

GMES is a two-year, non-thesis Master of Science degree offered at TTUHSC specifically designed for students with a goal to teach in the anatomical sciences or who want more preparation for medical school.

Education

TTUHSC School of Medicine Faculty Member Elected to the Texas Medical Association Board of Trustees

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) elected Rodney Young, M.D., to the TMA Board of Trustees during TexMed 2024, its annual conference in Dallas.