Dr. Don Hoover awarded NIH grant for research

Dr. Don Hoover

JOHNSON CITY (December 19, 2014) – East Tennessee State University’s Dr. Don Hoover recently was awarded more than $330,000 in federal funding to conduct research related to the nervous system’s interaction with the spleen in restraining inflammatory responses.

The research project studies a novel feedback mechanism in which the nervous system can act at the spleen to prevent excessive inflammatory response in the body, Hoover explained. However, the feedback system is not activated enough by itself to prevent tissue damage in patients with sepsis and other inflammatory diseases.

“We are trying to understand how this feedback system works,” said Hoover, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and a member of ETSU’s new Center for Inflammation, Infectious Disease and Immunity. “We want to see if we can target it and exploit it for therapeutic advantage, particularly with sepsis.”

Sepsis, Hoover said, is a major problem.

“Almost one million people get sepsis per year in the United States,” he said. “Twenty-five percent of those with severe sepsis die and the survivors have a lot of residual problems.”

By better understanding the anti-inflammatory pathway, Hoover hopes to find ways to prevent some of the short-term and long-term effects seen in patients with sepsis.

Hoover and his co-investigator, Dr. Tammy Ozment from Quillen’s Department of Surgery, will work with specific drugs to see their impact on the body’s alpha7 receptors.

“We want to determine if these drugs are going to be any benefit in the early stages of sepsis, or maybe in preventing secondary issues of sepsis,” Hoover said.

A successful completion of their experiments could have both basic science and clinical significance.

“Therapy with a drug that stimulates alpha7 receptors could be readily translated to the clinical setting to help patients,” Hoover explained. “Currently, there are no drugs available for the prevention and treatment of sepsis.”

The National Institutes of Health awarded Hoover a grant of $337,340 over three years to conduct the research.
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