By Wendy Sarubbi | February 24, 2014 2:12 pm

Finding a practical way prevent the transmission of HIV, developing a reliable way to detect tuberculosis while a patient is in the doctor’s office and findings ways that stem cells can treat ailing hearts are among the research projects that the National Institutes of Health is currently funding at the University of Central Florida.

The NIH recently provided data on grants per state for the period of October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013. #NIHinYourState #Florida Many of UCF’s grants for that time period, worth $7.2 million total, address challenges of national and global scale such as cancer. Some smaller grants support promising new technology or potential discoveries that could lead to new treatments, such as a potential malaria-fighting drug made from marine microbes.

Twenty of the 26 projects in the NIH’s snapshot involve researchers at the College of Medicine, most of them at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences. Burnett school researchers focus on the medical conditions that plague humanity – cancer, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and infectious disease.

“Our scientists have earned exceptional support from the NIH, in a review process that is highly competitive, and getting even more stringent,” said Dr. Richard Peppler, interim director of the Burnett school and associate dean for faculty and academic affairs at the medical school. “As we grow our research enterprise at the college, we hope to increase our numbers even more.”

Two of the projects highlighted in the NIH snapshot were:

HIV-1 ($436,000 grant)

Researcher Alexander Cole, a professor in the college’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, leads a team that is developing a way to use inexpensive and widely available antibiotics called aminoglycosides to restore the production of a potent human protein called retrocyclin. This protein prevents HIV-1 infection.

Humans early on were able to produce retrocyclin, but a mutation in one of our genes suppresses its production. By using aminoglycosides, the team has been able to boost the ability of the gene to begin producing the protein again.  The $436,000 grant will help the team continue its study.

“Being able to naturally bolster human’s ability to prevent HIV transmission could be extremely beneficial in limiting the global spread of HIV,” Dr. Cole said.

Tuberculosis ($429,000)

Typically, getting a diagnosis of tuberculosis takes time. A culture must be taken and usually sent to a lab for confirmation, and that means lots of time without treatment. The scenario is worse in remote regions of the world, where test results could take several weeks or months.

The goal is to enhance efforts to control the spread of tuberculosis. TB is a global health crisis, which kills 2 million people each year because of a lack of an effective vaccine, emerging drug resistance, limited treatment options, and inadequate diagnostic tools.

Researchers Kyle Rohde of the Burnett school and Dmitry Kolpashchikov in UCF’s chemistry department, and partners in Germany are using their NIH grant to develop a novel diagnostic tool that is accurate and quick, giving a medical professional results within 30 minutes.

“The inability to reliably detect active TB cases and rapidly determine drug susceptibility profiles in many high-incidence settings severely compromises the treatment and control of this disease,” Dr. Kolpashchikov said.

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