Imoukhuede receives American Heart Association Grant for PAD research

Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office

Princess U II Imoukhuede, an assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering, has been awarded a Scientist Development Grant by the American Heart Association. The three-year, $308,000 award will fund her proposal, “Predicting new targets for inducing sprouting angiogenesis via systems biology.”

“Peripheral artery disease—or PAD—is a very significant health problem that affects more than eight million Americans,” Imoukhuede stated. “PAD is caused by blood vessel blockage and there are currently no effective drugs that improve circulation to the limbs. Our proposal aims to identify new approaches to turn on blood vessel formation (angiogenesis/arteriogenesis) that can bypass the blocked artery.”

Princess Imoukhuede working with one of her students.
Princess Imoukhuede working with one of her students.
Currently, Imoukhuede’s research team is developing a new class of nanosensors that can characterize how blood vessels form. Information from the nanosensors will be incorporated into new computer models that predict how blood vessel formation can be turned on in conditions similar to PAD. The accuracy of the model predictions will then be tested on cells grown in their lab.

“This approach offers considerable impact in two areas—emerging technology and predictive medicine,” Imoukhuede added. “The nanosensors contain a material that can be toxic to cells. If we can successfully keep cells alive while performing our nanosensing measurements, then we would break-through a long-standing barrier in this field. Eventually, these nanosensors could then be used to measure and diagnose more than 70 diseases: including diabetes, obesity, and cancer.”

Imoukhuede, who joined the Illinois faculty in 2012, is also an affiliate of the Institute for Genomic Biology, and of the Beckman Institute at Illinois. Her research applies systems biology to study clinically relevant questions in cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The objective of the Scientist Development Grant is to support highly promising beginning scientists in their progress toward independence by encouraging and adequately funding Research Projects that can serve to bridge the gap between completion of the research training and readiness for successful competition as an independent investigator.