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UT scientist receives hemophilia research award

Keri Smith, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, has received a Career Development Award from the National Hemophilia Foundation.

The award will support Smith's research into the development of a therapy for people with Hemophilia A, a bleeding disorder, whose immune systems are resistant to treatment. Hemophilia A affects about one in every 5,000 males born in the United States.

Through the award, Smith is eligible for up to $70,000 per year for a maximum of three years. The National Hemophilia Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1948 to find cures for bleeding disorders.

People with Hemophilia A are born with a shortage of a blood-clotting protein called Factor VIII and current treatments include injections of synthetically-produced, replacement Factor VIII. Symptoms include uncontrolled, sometimes unprompted bleeding.

Nearly one in three people with Hemophilia A have immune systems that are resistant to replacement Factor VIII and produce antibodies that attack the synthetic protein. "Current therapies to treat these antibodies are expensive and often unsuccessful," Smith said.

Smith's solution is to alter the chemical signals produced by T cells that trigger the production of the anti-Factor VIII antibodies in people with Hemophilia A, which in turn would make people with the disease more receptive to the replacement protein.

"The real advances in science often occur at the interface between two different fields," said Steven J. Norris, Ph.D., Robert Greer Professorship in the Biomedical Sciences and vice chair for research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. "In this case, Dr. Smith has applied her expertise in T cells and their role in inflammatory reactions to an important problem in the treatment of hemophilia with Factor VIII. She will first look for inflammatory responses to Factor VIII, and then see if they can be blocked by using a novel protein that inhibits such responses. This approach may decrease the occurrence of inhibitory antibodies that often interfere with an otherwise effective treatment for hemophilia."

Smith's hemophilia research also received support through the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences at the UT Health Science Center. Smith completed her undergraduate work at The University of Delaware, her doctorate at Montana State University and her postdoctoral training at The University of Michigan.


Contact: Robert Cahill
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

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