UNC awarded $5 million NIH grant to explore disease that inflames blood vessels

activate normal neutrophils to cause tissue damage, and exactly how the damage to small blood vessels occurs remain unclear.

"These are the big questions we'll explore," Falk said. "We also want to develop appropriate animal models for this human disease. We'll also study differences in the ability of patients' leukocytes when compared to normal individuals to do damage. And then there's a big question of whether certain environmental toxins cause the disease."

Falk points out that the research will involve molecular biology and cell biology studies of human blood - including antibodies and leukocytes - a series of animal model experiments, and detailed environmental exposure investigation.

"The disease may have a genetic component, an environmental component and probably an infectious disease component," he said

A member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, the kidney specialist notes that therapy for the disease is about the same as it was 20 years ago. Patients may receive several medications, including steroids intravenously or in pill form. Other powerful and toxic drugs, such as prednisone and the cancer chemotherapies cyclophosphamide and methotrexate, carry a variety of side effects such as nausea, vomiting, bone marrow defects, and GI bleeding.

"Such treatment can be miserable. If we can't figure out the cause of the disease and what allows one to form antibodies, then we'll be stuck with these problematic therapies," Falk said.


Contact: Les Lang
University of North Carolina School of Medicine

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