Gagan Flora, PhD, a postdoctoral research scholar in the lab of Anil Chauhan, PhD, received a two-year, $140,952 American Heart Association (AHA) Postdoctoral Fellowship for his project “Role of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinases in regulating platelet function and thrombosis.” This is the latest in a string of postdoctoral fellowships and career development awards received by researchers in the Chauhan Lab.
Platelets play a central role in the formation of a hemostatic clot at the site of the damaged blood vessel to prevent blood loss. However, the same process of hemostasis may also cause thrombosis and vessel occlusion, which can lead to heart attack and stroke, following the rupture of atherosclerotic lesions. Antiplatelet agents are widely used to prevent the recurrence of thrombotic events. Despite effectiveness, they are associated with bleeding risks and are not suitable for long-term use. Therefore, new therapeutic strategies are required to inhibit thrombosis with minimal bleeding risk.
Flora is investigating a novel strategy to inhibit arterial thrombosis by targeting metabolic plasticity in platelets via regulatory enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDKs). Recent studies from the Chauhan Lab and others suggest the existence of metabolic plasticity in platelets. “Metabolic pathways are increasingly recognized as therapeutic targets in different cell types to treat a range of disorders,” Flora said. “A lot less is known about the role of different metabolic pathways in the regulation of platelet function. The existence of metabolic plasticity in platelets might offer a similar avenue that can be targeted for their antithrombotic effects.”
Flora credits his AHA award to his mentor Chauhan. “Invaluable guidance and profound encouragement by Dr. Chauhan were one of the major reasons that enabled me to apply for this award in the first place. I cannot thank him enough for his constant support at this stage of my career.” Flora said that Chauhan advised him to see this as one step on a long journey toward becoming an independent investigator. At the same time, Flora is proud of this achievement. “For young people, it is easy to give up when things don’t work out,” Flora said. “Fearfulness to fail will just keep you away from being successful in academia.”
Flora also credits valuable guidance from Steven Lentz, MD, PhD, and all the other members of the Chauhan Lab, particularly Manasa Nayak, PhD, and Madan Ghatge, PhD, who helped Flora generate pilot data for his project.