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The UNC School of Medicine Office of Research provided pilot funding to three teams for cutting-edge basic science discovery research.

The following article was originally published by the UNC School of Medicine on January 11, 2023 and can be found here.


The School of Medicine Office of Research sponsors an annual pilot program, Emerging Challenges in Biomedical Research (ECBR), that supports innovative, early-stage research relevant to external strategic priorities. The fall 2022 round of funding was focused on recognizing the importance of fundamental research by supporting interdisciplinary, technology-focused, basic science research that can lead to new discoveries or technologies. Previous ECBR rounds have provided pilot support for Health Equity Research, COVID-19, Zika, Alzheimer’s Disease, Precision Healthcare and Vaping research.

Three teams received ECBR funding for cutting-edge basic science research projects. The teams are:

The first project, Biological Template for Sinoatrial (SA) Node Tissue Engineering, is led by Michael Bressan, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Donald Freytes, PhD, associate professor in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC and NC State, and Frank Conlon, PhD, professor in the Departments of Biology and Genetics. Together they will build a novel sinoatrial node scaffold to study how environmental conditions impact cardiac pacemaker cell behavior.

Christoph Rau, PhD, assistant professor of Computational Medicine and Genetics, and Jeremy Purvis, PhD, associate professor of Genetics, will build a single-cell gene expression imaging system to study how cellular neighborhoods predict focal apoptosis during heart failure in their proposal entitled Identifying the Role of Local Cell-Type Neighborhoods on Catecholamine-Induced Focal Necrosis.

The third project supported is led by Xianwen Yi, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, and Yisong Wan, PhD, professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology: The New Metabolic Mouse Model for Immunometabolic Study of Regulatory T cells in Atherosclerosis. With this proposal, the team will explore mechanisms that regulate Treg immunometabolism in atherosclerosis.

More about the ECBR mechanism and other funding provided by the Office of Research can be found here.

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