University of Louisville wins $11.7M to study links between disease, microorganisms

Published 1:30 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023


Kentucky Lantern

University of Louisville researchers hope to better understand conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and diabetes and how to best treat them through a nearly $12 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.

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Over the next half-decade, the researchers will study connections between microorganisms like bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses and protozoans and diseases, UofL said Thursday.

The researchers were originally awarded a grant in 2018 from the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence. This $11.7 million extends that research, which includes studying microorganisms in the mouth, GI tract and the blood-brain barrier.

The research “could lead to life-changing therapies, treatments and more that could dramatically improve the lives of people living with numerous conditions,” Kevin Gardner, executive vice president for research and innovation, said in a statement.

Multiple researchers will investigate:

• Periodontitis, a common condition which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says can include the gums pulling away from teeth. People with the condition may lose teeth or have tooths loosen. Smoking and diabetes are risk factors for periodontitis.

• The GI tract pathogen C. difficile, which the Mayo Clinic says can cause “life threatening damage” to the colon.

• The blood-brain barrier (BBB), which the Cleveland Clinic says is “a tightly locked layer of cells that defend your brain from harmful substances, germs and other things that could cause damage.”

In 2021, 1,632 Kentuckians died from Alzheimer’s Disease, according to the CDC. Kentucky also has high rates of cancer mortality, heart disease and diabetes.