Newswise — A North Dakota State University research team has been awarded more than $1.3 million in a five-year grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health for research to combat the negative impact of diabetes on blood vessels.

Yagna Jarajapu, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the College of Health Professions, is the principal investigator for the project titled, “Targeting Mas Receptor for Diabetic Vascular Disease in Older Adults.”

According to Jarajapu, aging causes detrimental effects on blood vessel function, and aging-with-diabetes worsens the impact. The result is increased risk for life-threatening complications such as heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease or nephropathy. The researchers will test beneficial effects of a molecule that activates a Mas receptor in stem or progenitor cells and the circulatory system.

By using animal models of diabetes and stem cells from diabetic individuals, Jarajapu’s group will test the approach in reversing or preventing diabetic vascular disease. If successful, the study will provide a promising pharmacological strategy for enhancing the reparative functions of stem cells in diabetic individuals and for accelerating the repair of blood vessels.

“Due to long-term diabetes in older adults, the blood vessels are damaged so they cannot repair injury,” said Jarajapu. “If you go for a surgery and a person has diabetes, they want to check whether you can heal well following the surgery. Diabetes is known to impair the healing capacity because blood vessels don’t regenerate immediately following surgery.

“It has been a problem for a long time and still we don’t have any reliable treatments. We are trying to find new, novel approaches to enhance vascular regeneration by enhancing the function of stem cells that we already have in the body,” said Jarajapu.

“This grant will help find solutions to the devastating complications associated with diabetes, especially in the elderly, where it can cause severe irreversible damage to organs and tissues,” said Charles Peterson, dean of the NDSU College of Health Professions. “The Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences now has seven active NIH R01 grants, reflecting the high quality of the researchers and studies being conducted at NDSU in the College of Health Professions.”

Dr. Jarajapu and his research group’s work also was recognized among the top 10 percent of research accepted for presentation at American Heart Association conferences in 2017 and is accredited as best of AHA specialty conferences.

Jarajapu joined the NDSU faculty in 2011. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pharmacy from Andhra University, India; a master of science degree at the University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom; and his doctorate from Glasgow Caledonian University, United Kingdom.

The number of the five-year NIH grant is 1R01AG056881-01.