UNMC Researcher Awarded Highly Competitive Grant to Study COVID & Cardiovascular Problems

May 11, 2020, 5:45 a.m. ·

Rebekah Gundry, Ph.D. (Courtesy: UNMC)

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A researcher from the University of Nebraska Medical Center is one of only 12 people in the country to be awarded a competitive grant from the American Heart Association to study COVID-19.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about new coronavirus disease, including why some patients are also experiencing cardiovascular problems.

Rebekah Gundry, Ph.D., is professor and vice chair of Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology.

The $100,000 grant will fund her research into glycan molecules— she describes them as sugars in blood and every cell type in the body.

Gundry says glycans are critical to understanding a multitude of infections, but they’re also very difficult to study.

An analytical platform she helped develop is one reason her proposal was chosen out of more than 750 applications.

"We already have great preliminary data showing that our platform is informative in other disease states that give us a really strong indication that similar sorts of things are going to be possible for this COVID and heart [study]," Gundry said.

Gundry says they’ll be able to use UNMC’s database of samples from COVID-19 patients for the research. They’re looking for an explanation for the connection between COVID and heart problems.

But eventually it could be used to make precise medical decisions about a patient’s care by predicting how someone will respond to a certain treatment.

Gundry says this project is a good example of why medical research is critical: they’ve been developing the analytical platform for two years.

"It’s not flashy, it doesn’t make the news, because method development, technology development, and validating it takes a very long time," Gundry said. "But once it’s ready to go, the impact it can have can be enormous."

The research is set to begin on June 1, but Gundry says she’s already met with the other grant recipients remotely to discuss their work.