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Terry Kirley, PhD, professor in the department of pharmacology and cell biophysics, received all of his education in Cincinnati. After graduating from St. Xavier High School, he obtained a Bachelor of Science in biology and a PhD in chemistry with a biochemistry emphasis from UC. Kirley then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the department of pharmacology and cell biophysics at the UC College of Medicine and was recruited as a junior faculty member. Since then, he has led a number of programs and continues to teach and conduct research within the department.
What brought you to UC? "UC is a great place. My doctoral thesis adviser persuaded me to get my PhD in chemistry at UC during my undergraduate research experience in his laboratory. I worked with some great faculty during my post-doc years, and I developed a keen interest in pharmacology after obtaining my doctorate degree. A faculty position at UC enabled me to continue an independent research project that I developed as a post-doc, as well as facilitating my gradual expansion from a protein biochemist to a pharmacologist with structural biology interest and expertise. My current position also allows me to benefit from interactions with clinician faculty and others with more extensive training and expertise in clinical and health-related research.”
What is the focus of your research? "My research focuses on the study of the structure, function and clinical applications of ecto-nucleotidases—enzyme families that modulate and control many physiological processes, including blood coagulation, smooth muscle contraction, inflammatory responses and pain perception. Currently, I am concentrating on the clinical application of an engineered form of one of these human nucleotidases, which is in the same family of enzymes utilized by blood-sucking insects to inhibit blood clotting during biting by a variety of insects, including mosquitoes, ticks and bedbugs. The human enzyme is called the Calcium-Activated Nucleotidase (CAN), and we proposed that an engineered soluble form of this enzyme (SCAN) would be useful as a potential coating for cardiovascular stents and other medical devices. Thus, we are testing the hypothesis that by hydrolysis (chemical breakdown when coming into contact with water) of nucleotides, especially adenosine diphosphate (ADP), which aids in platelet activation and clotting, this immobilized enzyme will better the three main complications associated with the current cardiovascular stents implanted in hundreds of thousands of patients each year—re-stenosis, or narrowing of the artery, inflammation and thrombosis, or blood clotting. This project allows me to collaborate with a multi-disciplinary group of UC faculty, including faculty from the College of Engineering & Applied Science, the department of molecular genetics biochemistry and microbiology and clinician scientists.”
How soon do you expect this research to impact patient care? "Currently, I am trying to collect preliminary data on the use of nucleotidase coated stents in a small animal model. This data will be included in a revised proposal to the NIH. If successful, the coated stents will be tested in a large animal model, which is the gold standard for testing such devices before beginning human trials. So, this technology will take some years to develop prior to any direct effect on patient care.”
What are the next steps of your research? "We will test the effects of the current SCAN coatings on the stent models. If necessary, we will develop and utilize new organic coatings applied to stainless steel devices to improve the efficacy of the SCAN enzyme—an ongoing collaboration with UC Engineering, funded by an interdisciplinary University Research Grant.”
When you’re not working, what do you do for fun? "I enjoy watching movies with my family at home and getting outside to play an occasional round of golf. I am a technophile, so I enjoy learning and applying new technologies in my personal as well as my professional life. I have been interested in photography for decades, and have several dSLR cameras and many lenses, as well as many thousands of digital pictures spanning many years. I like listening to music from the ’60s through the ’80s. I jog a few miles several times a week and do situps daily.”