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UTHealth’s Jeffrey Actor, Ph.D., awarded $1.7 million for tuberculosis research

PHOTO OF JEFFREY ACTOR
Jeffrey Actor, Ph.D.

HOUSTON – (Jan. 5, 2018) -  Jeffrey Actor, Ph.D., professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), has been awarded nearly $1.7 million for a two-year project to investigate a promising tuberculosis treatment using a natural molecule called lactoferrin.

The grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (2R42-AI117990-02).

The research is a joint project with Marian Kruzel, Ph.D., of PharmaReview Corporation, representing the second phase of a collaborative small business award.

Tuberculosis, caused by the intracellular bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, infects roughly a third of the world’s population. Natural immunity plays a major role through the formation of tight granuloma structures within the lung that limit dissemination of the bacilli during primary disease. These structures protect the person, but also allow the organisms to escape destruction by the immune cells.

“The goal of our research is to evaluate a novel recombinant lactoferrin for use as a preclinical research tool to alter the granuloma pathology,” Actor said. “This could limit development of tuberculosis lung disease, thus essentially establishing a ‘firebreak’ to slow transmission of organisms between individuals.”

Shen-An Hwang, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, is also an active investigator on the grant. The team has collaborated closely with Chinnaswamy Jagannath, Ph.D.; Robert L. Hunter, M.D.; Ph.D.; and Arshad Khan, Ph.D., for nearly two decades on tuberculosis research. Hunter is the Distinguished Chair in Molecular Pathology and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at McGovern Medical School.

Actor has published more than 100 peer-reviewed publications in leading journals on mechanisms of immunity to pathogenic infections. He has authored two immunology textbooks, written numerous book chapters, and currently serves on multiple editorial boards for high impact journals including Frontiers in Immunology; International Immunopharmacology; and Genes & Immunity.

Actor, Hunter and Jagannath are on the faculty of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

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