Renewal continues 26-year study of adenosine

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A $2.5 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI ) will continue the work of a West Virginia University research team that studies how chemicals change and interact at the cellular and molecular levels to regulate blood flow to the heart.

S. Jamal Mustafa, Ph.D., of the WVU School of Medicine, has studied adenosine for much of his academic career. The chemical, he says, carries messages from cell to cell in the body, influencing a wide range of normal functions and altered responses in diseases. 

“The body releases adenosine to increase blood flow by opening blood vessels when there is an increased demand for oxygen,” Dr. Mustafa said. “It can influence the airways of asthmatics, and also has an important role in regulating blood flow to the heart. Adenosine plays an important role in a number of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, heart failure and arrhythmias.”

In his lab at WVU, Mustafa leads a team of faculty researchers and graduate assistants who use animal models to study how adenosine interacts with various cells in the blood vessels. Using genetically modified mice, they perform research at the basic science level that is aimed at building knowledge that can be used to help design new drugs for the diseases of the lung and heart.

His past work was instrumental in the recent approval by the FDA of Lexiscan®, which is used during heart imaging studies to evaluate the extent of coronary disease. Mustafa’s federally funded research on this chemical began 26 years ago, when he was on the faculty of the University of South Alabama and East Carolina University. He moved to WVU in 2005, bringing with him a team of students and fellows. NHLBI, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health, continued to fund the research at WVU. They recently approved a five-year, $2.5 million RO1 grant titled “Mechanisms of Coronary Flow Regulation by Adenosine.”

Earlier this year, Mustafa was named a Robert C. Byrd Professor by West Virginia University. He is a professor of physiology and pharmacology and assistant dean for research in the School of Medicine, and serves as an assistant vice president for research at the Health Sciences Center.

Other scientists who will be a part of the research team are co-investigator Bunyen Teng, D.V.M., Ph.D., Mohammed  El-Awady, Ph.D., graduate students Maryam Sharifi, Ernest J. Young, and Swati Kunduri, and laboratory technician Brandi Wilmoth.

For more information: Kim Fetty, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
kf: 09-14-10