AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Department of Physiology at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University has been awarded a training grant from the Brazil Scientific Motility Society to advance the education of future scientists and scientific discovery.
The three-year, $186,200 grant supports the exchange of six GHSU graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with the University of Säo Paulo-Ribeiräo Preto and enables Dr. R. Clinton Webb, department Chair, to spend six months conducting hypertension research in Brazil.
“Each institution offers outstanding and highly complementary research programs and scientific activities,” said Dr. Rita Tostes, a former MCG faculty member who is Coordinator of the Brazilian university’s pharmacology group. “We are delighted that the Brazil Scientific Mobility Award provides a funding mechanism for the training of our students and fellows. Our mutual collaboration can only result in improved knowledge and better outcome for hypertensive patients worldwide.”
“We’ll be receiving top students and postdocs from Brazil and we are sending our best there,” Webb said. The experience will give the future scientists a perspective on how science philosophies differ across the world as it enhances their collaborative skills, he said.
The Brazilian program also seeks to attract established scientists who are leaders in the priority areas of Scientists Without Borders, a public-private partnership conceived by the New York Academy of Sciences in conjunction with the United Nations’ Millennium Project to tackle the most pressing global development challenges.
This contract will focus on finding better ways to treat hypertension, which affects roughly half or more of the elderly in the United States and Brazil. In the U.S., less than half of hypertensives have their pressure under control.
A factor in uncontrollable pressures is likely the increase in a natural process called glycosylation, when a sugar is added, in this case, to a precursor of nitric oxide, a molecule essential to the dilation of blood vessels. Adding sugar reduces the activity of the precursor, endothelial nitric oxide synthase. Enzymes put the sugar on and remove it; Webb and Tostes are searching for ways to control that activity. Phosphorylation, a process of adding phosphorus, is a natural way of increasing the activity of things like proteins. With age, phosphorylation decreases and glycosylation increases.