Maira Soto, a PhD candidate mentored by Associate Professor Kathleen Rodgers at the USC School of Pharmacy, has been awarded a 2-year, $86,240 grant from the National Institutes of Health for her translational research that explores the relationship of diabetes and lung diseases, and how to treat them.
Her project, “Characterizing Angiotensin (1-7) to Treat Immunosuppression in Type2 Diabetes,” earned her a prestigious National Research Service Award from the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
“I am specifically exploring lung issues and how diabetes impacts the lungs,” explains Soto of her research. “We know that diabetes causes lung damage, so we’re testing angiotensin (1-7) – a naturally occurring peptide – to see if it would prevent the damage from happening. If so, this would ultimately result in fewer infections and improved oxygen uptake.”
Soto’s project aims to characterize the diabetic lung over a period of time and explore its cellular mechanisms; determine if treatment with angiotensin (1-7) will change the response to respiratory pathogens; and test if angiotensin (1-7) fortifies the immune system.
“I am very proud of Marira’s achievement,” says Kathleen Rodgers, “This award will allow her to explore an aspect of diabetes with significant impact that has received little attention to date.”
While Soto’s research focuses on the lungs, she is part of a larger, lab-wide project, as other graduate students in the Rodger lab are using the same animal models to test the effects angiotensin (1-7) has on the kidneys, the pancreas and diabetic neuropathy.
“Our thinking is that the effect is systemic – just like diabetes impacts the whole body,” says Soto.
Though not a part of this particular grant project, in addition to collaborations within the Rodgers lab, Soto is also collaborating with a PhD student at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics, Soo In Bang, to explore big databases and examine the impact of type 2 diabetes and hypertension on lung health.
“We’re hoping to harness the power of collaboration to ultimately solve big problems,” she says.
Soto has previously earned recognition for her research at this year’s International Society for Phamacoeconomics and Outcomes Research meeting in Philadelphia, where she was awarded a ribbon for her poster presentation.
“Ultimately, I hope to continue to do research that is translated into therapeutics that improve health,” says Soto.