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For the past two years, the research lab of X. Long Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., Division Director, Laboratory Medicine, UAB Department of Pathology, has hosted an annual Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP) Fair and Education Day. The event brings together physicians and researchers working to improve the available treatments, outcomes, and recovery times for the disease, with patients and community members affected by TTP.

TTP is a rare blood disorder in which blood clots form in small blood vessels throughout the body. The clots can limit or block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body's organs, such as the brain, kidneys, and heart. As a result, serious health problems can develop.

This year’s TTP Fair and Education Day took place Saturday, June 9, in the Shelby Biomedical Research Building.

The Zheng Lab is interested in understanding the biological mechanism of TTP, which is caused by a deficiency of active ADAMTS13, the enzyme responsible for cleaving Von Willebrand Factor (VWF), a large protein involved in blood clotting. Zheng was among the first group of investigators who discovered and cloned the ADAMTS13 enzyme.

“The Zheng Lab has made many major contributions to the understanding of the structure-function relationship and regulation of ADAMTS13,” Zheng says. “We are working to develop novel tools for the diagnosis and treatment of TTP.”

Two of Zheng’s students who are studying TTP were recently awarded funds to advance their research.Liang Zheng, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in Long Zheng’s lab, was recently given a fellowship award by the American Heart Association to continue his work on “A Novel Zebrafish Model of Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP).” Funding starts in July and continues for one year, with the opportunity for renewal for a second year.

Mohammad Abdelgawwad, M.D. graduate student studying pathogenesis and molecular medicine in the Zheng lab, received a year-long Ireland Travel Research Scholarship from the UAB Graduate School, effective June 1, of up to $1,000 to travel to the University of Pennsylvania. There he will study the use of platelet-delivered ADAMTS13 as a novel therapeutic approach for acquired TTP.

“We are using platelets as targeted drug delivery especially in TTP patients since they have very low platelet count,” Abdelgawwad says. “We use platelets as a Trojan horse to hide ADAMTS13 from being recognized by its autoantibodies so it would cleave VWF.”

For more information and online registration for the TTP fair, visit: TTPResearchGroup.Path.UAB.edu.