ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Researchers at Albany Medical College have been awarded $1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to study vascular malformations and potential new ways to treat blood vessel abnormalities non-surgically. The grant will be awarded over four years.
Blood vessels play a critical role in maintaining healthy tissues and organs, carrying oxygen, nutrients, antibodies and other immune system elements throughout the body. But when they don’t develop properly, people may experience disfigurement, tumors, pain and discomfort, and chronic wounds. Vascular malformations can range from birthmarks to conditions that affect the brain and heart.
“Vascular malformations include blood vessels that are enlarged, dilated, leaky, or have other dysfunctions,” explained Kevin Pumiglia, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Regenerative and Cancer Cell Biology at Albany Medical College, who is leading the study. “We know they can be caused by a variety of congenital genetic mutations, but little is known about the precise molecular mechanisms that lead to their development.”
Dr. Pumiglia and his team will focus on the enzyme PI3-Kinase (PI3K), which is critical to the development of new blood vessels. Using animal models and three-dimensional cell-based methods, they will seek to determine the role of the protein RHEB in driving the PI3K mutations that appear to cause the vascular malformations.
“By bettering our understanding of vascular malformations at the molecular level, we hope to reveal new therapeutic targets for this disease that ultimately preclude the need for surgery,” said Dr. Pumiglia.