$2.3 million in NIH funding awarded to UNR Med researcher to advance hypertension research and treatments

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The Yume Feng Earley Lab Team posing for a socially distanced photo, outdoors.

Yumei Feng Earley, Ph.D., M.D., associate professor, departments of pharmacology, and physiology and cell biology was awarded a competitive, four-year, $2.3 million grant from the NIH to support her research on hypertension. From left-to-right: Lucas Souza, Ph.D., Caleb Worker, Gerald Bustos, Henry Liang, Yumei Feng Earley, Ph.D., M.D., Simindokht Aliabadi, Ariana Julia Gayban and Silvana Cooper. Photo by Brin Reynolds/UNR Med. 

Yumei Feng Earley, Ph.D., M.D., associate professor, departments of pharmacology, and physiology and cell biology at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) was awarded a competitive, four-year, $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support her research on increased sympathetic nervous system activity which has been found to be a primary precursor of hypertension.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, puts extra stress on blood vessels and vital organs and is the main risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, including coronary heart disease as well as stroke, kidney disease, arrhythmia and dementia. It affects more than one in three adults in the U.S., and for 95% of patients, causes are unknown, according to the NIH.

"We're studying how diets high in salt impact the brain, cause high blood pressure, and eventually lead to hypertension," said Feng Earley. It's not fully understood how the body regulates blood pressure, but Feng Earley explains that it may revolve around epigenetics, or genes, the environment, and how the two interact with each other.

"We are identifying key insights into mechanisms that regulate blood pressure, as well as new levels of understanding in how hypertension develops," she said. "This knowledge will advance the development of novel antihypertensive therapeutics, or high blood pressure treatments. Our overall goal is that this new antihypertensive agent will benefit hypertension patients through improved treatments. Early identification and long-term control of hypertension is key to preserving cardiovascular health."

In addition to advancing Feng Earley's research, the NIH funding will provide support for training future scientists involved on the project, including undergraduate students Ariana Gayban and Henry Liang; graduate students Simindokht Aliabadi, Silvana Cooper and Caleb Worker; postdoctoral fellow, Lucas Souza, and Gerald Bustos, research associate, who are on the research project team led by Feng Earley and co-led by Scott Earley, Ph.D., professor, department of pharmacology.

"High blood pressure is a major health threat and around half of people living with hypertension are unaware of their condition, putting them at risk of avoidable medical complications and death," said UNR Med Dean Thomas L. Schwenk, M.D. "We are very proud to have Dr. Feng Earley and colleagues at UNR Med who are advancing approaches to treatment and control of hypertension in order to reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases."

"With the support of the NIH, our scientists and future scientists will be able to advance their discoveries of the epigenetic causes of hypertension, and provide critical new knowledge toward the development of effective treatments," said Lucia Notterpek, Ph.D., associate dean for biomedical research at UNR Med. "This significant NIH funding is evidence that UNR Med is at the forefront of innovative solutions to improve human health."

The NIH is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, expanding the biomedical knowledge base by funding cutting-edge research and cultivating the biomedical workforce of today and tomorrow.

UNR Med's biomedical scientists are internationally recognized in the fields of neuroscience, infectious diseases, reproductive endocrinology, muscular dystrophy, cardiovascular physiology and gastrointestinal diseases, among other fields. UNR Med researchers have generated more than $242 million in research funding over the past decade, supporting research that is changing science and enhancing the quality of life for many.

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The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Released: Tuesday October 27, 2020 @ 6:00 AM