Ashraf Awarded Continuous Funding for Research on Treatment of Heart Attack
Published December 2003
Muhammad Ashraf, PhD, professor in the UC Department of
Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has received a prestigious MERIT
award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the
National Institutes of Health. MERIT awards from the NHLBI were made to
only five other U.S. medical scientists in 2003. MERIT stands for
Method to Extend Research in Time, and it provides funds for continuing
research in the biomedical field to researchers who have earned
extended support for their work. Dr. Ashraf will receive $3.5 million
in funding over the next ten years. Most research awards are given over
a 3 - 5 year period of time.
"This award will allow him to continue his research on
the treatment of heart attack without reapplying until 2013," said
Cecilia Fenoglio-Preiser, MD, professor and director of the UC
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
Dr. Ashraf's research is focused on identifying
therapies that prevent cell damage and death following a heart attack.
One promising approach is to "precondition" the heart's intrinsic
defense mechanisms to minimize or prevent permanent cell damage and
tissue injury in damaged areas of the heart. Dr. Ashraf is currently
exploring various therapeutic strategies, including drugs acting on key
cellular targets, as a way to precondition the heart cells of patients
at high risk of heart attacks. This may help them survive an otherwise
fatal heart attack.
"This particular award is to investigate the
regeneration of dead cardiac tissue (following a heart attack) with
bone marrow-derived stem cells," Dr. Ashraf said. The focus of this
research is prevention of the loss of heart muscle function during and
following heart attacks, by replacing damaged heart muscle tissue with
bone marrow stem cells. The stem cells have the potential to regenerate
into healthy heart tissue.