PhD student earns T32 grant for lung cell injury and repair research

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PhD candidate Jon Fritz works in the lab
PhD candidate Jon Fritz works in the lab. (photo courtesy Dept. of Biomedical Engineering)

PhD candidate Jon Fritz is one of six recipients of the T32 Predoctoral Research Training Grant from The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) for his study of lung cell injury and repair.

In October, CCTS received a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) award to fund graduate student training in clinical and translational research. This training program leverages the large, multidisciplinary research environment at Ohio State to increase the reach of clinical and translational science education across campus and to recruit and develop a diverse cohort of learners to become the next generation of scientist-leaders.

Fritz’s co-advisor is Biomedical Engineering Chair and Professor Samir Ghadiali, who shared his enthusiasm over Fritz’s T32.

“It is very exciting that Jon won this award. Because CCTS is focused on clinical translation, it typically funds those who are either earning MDs or enrolled in a health science college," he said. "As a biophysics graduate student who is co-advised by me in the College of Engineering and Dr. Joshua Englert from the College of Medicine, Jon is unique among his T32 cohort and his winning this award speaks to the real potential of his work, which combines engineering tools in my lab with clinical applications in Dr. Englert’s lab to develop new therapies for pulmonary disorders.”

Fritz is the only recipient of Ohio State’s first T32 cohort from the College of Engineering. The funding will advance his project, “Preventing Lung Cell Membrane Injury During Mechanical Ventilation by Targeting mTORC1-Dependent Phosphorylation of Annexin A2,” described in detail below.

Fritz’s research explores ways to mitigate lung injury from mechanical ventilation for those with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the leading cause of lung injury in ICU patients. While the standard of care for treating ARDS is mechanical ventilation, it can damage the membranes or barriers of lung cells.

“Our understanding of how lung cells repair their membranes during mechanical ventilation is limited, which is a key reason why there are no therapeutics for ARDS,” said Fritz. “Our data demonstrate that a protein involved in the repair of cell membranes—Annexin A2—may play an important role in protecting lung cells during mechanical ventilation.”

By using a combination of biophysical methods and biomedical engineering devices, Fritz hopes to understand how lung cells repair after injury and thereby expand the pool of therapeutic targets for mitigating lung injury to ARDS patients.

from the Department of Biomedical Engineering