Each year in the U.S., an estimated 500,000 patients undergo coronary angioplasty procedures to widen blocked or narrowed coronary arteries (the main blood vessel supplying the heart).
Following this procedure, about 17 percent of patients will develop restenosis, or the recurrence of the narrowing of the blood vessel.
Arwa Fairaq, a doctoral student in the Clinical and Experimental Therapeutics program in UGA’s College of Pharmacy, researches therapeutic strategies intended to reduce major complications- like restenosis- associated with coronary angioplasty surgery.
Fairaq joined Dr. Lakshman Segar’s lab at UGA in 2013 after earning her Pharm.D. from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science in 2012.
For Fairaq, choosing to continue her research at UGA was easy.
“In order to make successful clinical applications, work needs to be completed to understand the problem at the cellular level and translate it from the laboratory to patient’s lives,” she explains.
“The Clinical and Experimental Therapeutics program at UGA is unique and acts as an intermediary between research and its clinical applications to society. Within this program, the structure of the Ph.D. program presents a great opportunity to strengthen my research skills and match my passion for becoming a clinical scientist.”
Fairaq’s current research studies the role of specific proteins in cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease begins when vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) undergo a series of phenotypic switches or changes that allow it to transform from healthy to unhealthy cells.
These switches are especially dangerous after coronary angioplasty surgery, when uninhibited growth from unhealthy VSMC can make blood vessels narrower and cause restenosis.
Fairaq’s research focuses on ways to reduce this uninhibited growth and narrowing of blood vessels.
She is currently researching the protein Adipotectin (including its possible alternatives such as AdipoRon) and its effects on vessel narrowing caused by unrestricted vascular smooth muscle cells.
Her results show that AdipoRon treatment of human VSMC resulted in significant reduction of unhealthy VSMC cell growth as well as the inhibition of various proteins responsible for the phenotypic switching.
Her research also aims to determine the mechanisms by which AdipoRon reduces scar tissue formation after coronary angioplasty surgery.
Fairaq’s studies revealed that oral administration of AdipoRon significantly diminished scar tissue formation by about 57 percent in animal models.
“Our studies provide the first direct evidence of AdipoRon to inhibit scar tissue formation after arterial injury,” she explains.
“In the future, oral administration of adipoRon may provide a realistic alternative to attenuate exaggerated restenosis after angioplasty in human subjects.”
After graduation, Fairaq plans to combine research with academic teaching.
“I have always had a passion for sharing knowledge, guiding and assisting students in their growth and development, and creating an effective educational environment to help them reach their own goals,” she says.