Biomed effort takes hard look at vascular calcification

The heart of kidney disease: The NIH is supporting a new NYIT study into links between heart disease and chronic kidney disease.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Researchers at NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine are hoping to break a common link between chronic kidney disease and heart disease.

Armed with a fresh National Institutes of Health grant, the NYIT research team – led by Olga Savinova, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences at NYITCOM – will take a closer look at vascular calcification, in which calcium salts jam up blood vessels and cause arteries to lose their elasticity.

The hope is that a better understanding of vascular calcification will prevent heart disease cases associated with kidney disease – the most common cause of death in chronic kidney disease patients.

Savinova said the one-year study aims to confirm theories that the enzyme phosphatase is responsible for increased calcification, a popular belief among those studying the hardening of blood vessels, also known as atherosclerosis.

The $391,041 grant – which was awarded through the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – will also fund a study of calcification in both human cadavers and mice, with researchers looking to better understand the mechanisms by which arterial calcification occurs.

Olga Savinova: Calcification crusade.

Savinova’s research team includes assistant mechanical engineering professor Dorinamaria Carka of NYIT’s College of Engineering and Computing Sciences, who will work with an undergraduate engineering student on “computer simulations of blood-flow dynamics in response to increased calcification,” according to NYIT.

And of course, the College of Osteopathic Medicine will be well-represented on the squad, with Savinova joined by assistant biomedical sciences professor Maria Sepulveda and associate professor of clinical specialties Maria Plummer, a professional pathologist.

Ultimately, the team hopes the vascular calcification study will open doors to new heart- and kidney-disease therapies.

“We anticipate our findings will support a new therapy for vascular calcification, a compound known as SBI-425, which robustly inhibits the [tissue-nonspecific alkaline phosphatase] enzyme,” Savinova said in a statement. “Our long-term goal is to validate the effect of TNAP inhibition and set the stage for testing this compound as a viable pharmacological approach for chronic kidney disease.”