UAB researchers are working on technology that could change the way heart attacks are treated.Researchers in the UAB Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) recently secured two substantial grants from the National Institutes of Health, putting the department in position to further strengthen its standing as one of the nation’s premier BME programs.

Department chair Jianyi “Jay” Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., recently received a four-year $2.5 million grant to examine integration and therapeutic potential of a prefabricated myocardial tissue patch (hCMP). This grant is in addition to a seven-year, $8-million consortium grant (JZ , contact PI) that is currently supporting development and preclinical testing of different types of hCMP.

Also this summer, Gangjian Qin, M.D. professor of BME who recently moved to Birmingham from Northwestern University in Chicago , received a four-year $2.3-million grant to study persistent hypertension. Qin intends to establish a previously unrecognized role of E2F2, a classic oncogene, in the regulation of arterial contractility and blood-pressure homeostasis. This study will likely provide the missing link between the results of large-scale genome-wide association studies and the pathogenesis of human hypertension. Persistent hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and arterial aneurysm; even moderately elevated arterial blood pressure shortens life expectancy. This study may help identify novel strategies for treating this critical health problem.

In 2016, the BME Department, a joint department between the UAB Schools of Medicine and Engineering, was the fourth-ranked BME department in the country in NIH funding based on Blue Ridge NIH ranking database, trailing only Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and Oregon Health & Services University.

jay zhang 2016Jianyi "Jay" Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.That high ranking came in large part through NIH funding Zhang brought to UAB when he was hired in 2015. Over the past year, he recruited more faculty, including Qin, Prasanna Krishnamurthy, MVSc, Ph.D., Margaret Liu, Ph.D., and Kevin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D. Those hires helped increase research funding further while boosting the total number of BME faculty to 20 full-time members.

“The department’s receipt of NIH funds in 2016 was largely the result of all the BME faculty and staff working together as a team to win new NIH UO1, RO1, and R21 grants,” said Zhang, who also holds the Michael and Gillian Goodrich Endowed Chair of Engineering Leadership. “Additionally, by recruiting four new faculty with NIH funds, we continue to improve the quality of our department as we strengthen our research. I congratulate all of our faculty for their recent achievements and I extend our sincere appreciation for their tireless efforts and continued support.”