Emery Bresnick Earns MERIT Award from National Institutes of Health
Madison, Wisconsin - Dr. Emery Bresnick, professor of cell and regenerative biology and member of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center at the School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), has been given a coveted MERIT Award by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The NIH offers a limited number of MERIT Awards to selected investigators who have demonstrated "superior competence and outstanding productivity in their research endeavors."
Only a handful of School of Medicine and Public Health researchers have been given MERIT Awards.
"This award is made to a very small number of researchers nationally and recognizes extraordinary levels of scientific achievement," says Dr. Richard L. Moss, senior associate dean for basic research, biotechnology and graduate studies at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
The main feature of a MERIT, or Method to Extend Research in Time, Award is to relieve researchers from the burdens associated with preparing and submitting competitive grant applications. This means that, in essence, Bresnick will be able to skip at least one grant renewal cycle in the project that the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has funded for the past 15 years.
The research focuses on how stem cells and progenitor cells give rise to red blood cells and how hemoglobin production is controlled-in both normal and disease states, including sickle-cell anemia and thalassemia. Sickle-cell anemia is the most common inherited blood disorder, afflicting 70,000 people in the United States and one in 500 African-Americans, while thalassemia is rare in the U.S.
"Sickle-cell anemia remains a major public health problem," says Bresnick. "We hope that our studies will provide a foundation for future discoveries that can yield important new drug-targeting strategies."
Oxygen-carrying red blood cells consist of millions of hemoglobin molecules. Each molecule contains four separate globin chains of amino acids. Each globin chain contains a small heme, or platform, containing an iron atom ready to bind to or release oxygen.
Bresnick's team focuses on mechanisms that control globin chain expression, heme biosynthesis and hemoglobin production overall. Transcription factors GATA-1 and GATA-2 play a central role in the process.
The School of Medicine and Public Health researchers have already made key discoveries related to basic red blood cell production mechanisms, and they expect to make more. But their studies may also provide insights into an array of other blood disorders, including leukemia, congenital porphyria, platelet disorders, anemia and coronary heart disease.
In addition to blood cell development, Bresnick's team studies stem cell and progenitor cell function and vascular biology.
Investigators do not apply for a MERIT Award. The NIH National Advisory Council/Board identifies candidates for the award as it reviews competing research grant applications.
Date Published: 05/31/2011