Bridge-grant funds blood disease research during sequestration

Giuseppina Nucifora, professor of hematology and oncology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, will receive bridge funding from the American Society of Hematology to continue her research on myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder related to leukemia.

Giuseppina Nucifora, professor of hematology and oncology (right) in her lab.

Giuseppina Nucifora, professor of hematology and oncology (right) in her lab with colleagues (left) Zhijian Qian and Vitalyi Senyuk. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services (click on image for larger file size)

The one-year, $100,000 grant will support her studies of the genes involved in myelodysplastic syndrome.  The syndrome affects mostly people older than age 65, and is caused by exposure to environmental toxins or radiation, or by genetic mutations in the bone marrow cells that make blood cells.

Nucifora and her colleagues have identified genes and other factors that cause stem cells to develop abnormally into myelodysplastic cells.

Massive budget cuts to the NIH due to sequestration would have disrupted Nucifora’s research had the hematology society not stepped in.

“Our work was generously supported by multiple grants from two National Institutes of Health divisions — the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – for two decades,” said Nucifora. “The last grant we submitted scored at a level that a few years ago would have been funded, but was not good enough now because less money is available for research.”

“We have now reached the most important point of our research,” said Nucifora. “We are ready to utilize the genes we identified and manipulate their expression to reverse the abnormalities of blood precursor cells in a mouse model of myelodysplastic syndrome. Without the grant from the American Society of Hematology, we wouldn’t be able to proceed into this next step.”

Zhijian Qian, assistant professor of hematology/oncology in the UIC College of Medicine is a co-investigator on Nucifora’s research.