Howard University Graduate School

HUGS Research Magazine
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Professor Amol Kularni Discusses Research on Inflammation: A Central Role in Clinical Management of Disorders

By Gwendolyn S. Bethea, Ph.D.

Dr. Amol Kulkarni

Dr. Amol Kulkarni, Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy, recently stated that there is increasing evidence that inflammation plays a central role in a variety of disorders including Type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, etc.

He stated, "Recent evidence strongly suggests that inhibiting the inflammatory cascade(s) may be a promising approach towards clinical management of these wide array of disease states. Initiation and progression of inflammatory response is mediated via a macromolecular assembly referred to as inflammasome. Currently, our multidisciplinary, collaborative research is focused on developing small molecules that are predicted to inhibit NLRP3-inflammasome-mediated inflammation. We utilize a combination of rational drug discovery and classical medicinal chemistry approaches for developing novel scaffolds with potent anti-inflammatory activity. Lastly, we are interested in creating structural diversity in our most active analogs using diversity-oriented synthesis."

The interview with Professor Kulkarni follows.

Q: If the evidence shows that inflammation may play a key role in these diseases, does the evidence also show that one's age, gender, ethnicity, general health, and/or environment might play a role, if only to a lesser or greater degree, in detecting and treating such inflammation. And if inflammation plays a role in these diseases, might these diseases be preventable, if inflammation is treated?
Kulkarni: Indeed factors like age, gender, ethnicity and environment (diet, nutrition, regular exercise, etc.) are shown to play a HUGE role in contributing to the establishment and pathogenesis of the inflammatory disorders. Based on very limited studies on animal models, it seems likely that minimizing/preventing sterile inflammation may be a promising approach towards preventing these diseases. This may be a slight oversimplification since inflammation is also beneficial in certain situations, such as microbial/viral infections, injury, etc. More research is needed to dissect the pathways that only target associated with a particular disorder, such as, Parkinson's disease.

Q: What does the future hold in the incidence of these diseases in specific populations and/or the general population relative to your research?
Kulkarni: Certain disease states, particularly type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's disease affect different populations disproportionately. I am a basic science researcher and I do not have expertise in clinical aspects, but we aim to test our chemicals on animal models specially designed for a disease state in a particular population.

Q: Are you collaborating with others in this research? How so?
Kulkarni: We have a highly multi-disciplinary project requiring a wide array of expertise in various aspects of drug development. We have a team of scientists specializing in rational drug design, chemical synthesis, and biological activity determination. Using in silico drug design (computer modeling), our collaborators have identified a few molecular scaffolds that have a high probability of displaying potent activity against inflammation. My group is involved in chemical synthesis and characterization of these novel molecular scaffolds. We are also collaborating with two biologists who will assist us in determining the biological activity of our novel compounds against certain molecular targets.

Q: What is the amount of the funding for the research and who is the funding agency? How long is the funding period?
Kulkarni: I have been involved with this project only for the past 3 months or so. We are currently generating "preliminary data" for our research proposal. Once we get experimental evidence that strongly corroborates our hypotheses, we will develop research proposals both for federal (NIH, NSF) and non-federal (research foundations). Depending upon the biological results, we are looking forward to submitting one NIH proposal during the October 2016 funding cycle and an additional proposal for a foundation.

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