UCLA endocrinologist awarded prestigious NIH grant
Dr. Pinchas Cohen, professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has won a $2 million Transformative R01 (T-R01) award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund his innovative research on mitochondrial dysfunction.
Considered the power generators of the cell, mitochondria convert oxygen and nutrients into chemical energy for the cell that fuels metabolic activities.
Mitochondrial dysfunction has been associated with many diseases, including Alzheimer's, cancer and diabetes, although its exact role in the development of these diseases remains controversial.
The new T-R01 program was specifically created under the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research to support exceptionally innovative, high risk, original or unconventional research projects that have the potential to transform a field of science. The selected projects tend to be inherently risky, but if successful, can profoundly impact a broad area of biomedical research.
Cohen's bold proposal will test the paradigm-shifting hypothesis that previously unrecognized molecules, he dubbed "mitochondrial-derived peptides" (MDPs), play an earlier unappreciated role in the regulation of cellular and organismal function, and that disregulation of MDPs is important in disease development.
Likewise, understanding the role of MDPs may lead to development of new therapeutic and diagnostic targets. Since Alzheimer's, cancer and diabetes particularly affect the elderly, these findings could have a significant impact as the world's aging population continues to grow. The first of these agents, which Cohen named "small humanin-like peptides," have already demonstrated promise in animal models of diabetes and cancer.
Cohen was one of only 42 researchers nationwide chosen for the T-R01 award. He also serves as chief of endocrinology at the UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital, as well as co-director of the UCSD/UCLA Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center.