Dr. Mahmoud Abou Alaiwa, Assistant Professor of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine, has recently begun work on an early-career grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The K08 award is also known as a Mentored Clinical Scientists Research Career Development Award and will provide support and protected time to Dr. Abou Alaiwa under the mentorship of Dr. Michael Welsh, Director of the Pappajohn Biomedical Institute.
Dr. Abou Alaiwa’s grant is titled “Mechanisms of Mucociliary Transport (MCT) in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Airway Disease.” In patients with CF, an inability to breathe freely comes from impaired MCT. The lower the pH of the airway mucus, the higher its viscosity and the greater difficulty the cilia have in moving the mucus out. Members of the Welsh Lab have been studying the MCT and CF in pigs, which have remarkably similar pulmonary systems to humans, moreso than rodents.
In Dr. Abou Alaiwa’s grant study, he will assess the effects of various agents on the biophysical properties of isolated airway mucus as well as MCT in newborn CF pigs. The first assessment will be done via passive rheology, a technique that allows for tiny particles’ movement to be tracked. The second will use computed tomography, scanning to correlate how the changes in mucus viscosity affect the pigs’ MCT.
The NIH grant will not only give Dr. Abou Alaiwa time and support for him to gain new insight into our understanding of the mechanisms of cystic fibrosis and to identify potential therapeutic targets, but it will also help him develop as a physician scientist. Under Dr. Welsh’s guidance, his skills as a grant and manuscript writer and reviewer will sharpen, as will his own already strong skills as a lab manager and mentor to junior scientists. (Last year, Dr. Abou Alaiwa won the Distinguished Mentor Award.) Congratulations on this momentous grant win, Dr. Abou Alaiwa!