The American Heart Association (AHA) has awarded a prestigious Transformational Project Award to Dr. Karl Jacob Jr. and Karl Jacob III Early-Career Chair and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Medicine, and Surgery, Eun Ji Chung.
The AHA’s Transformational Project Awards provide $300,000 over three years to support highly innovative projects that build on work in progress that could ultimately lead to critical discoveries and advancements that will accelerate the fields of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular research.
The Chung Lab’s Transformational Project will focus on an alternative strategy to treat atherosclerosis — a common inflammatory disease involving the buildup and rupture of plaque in arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. The National Institutes of Health note that about 50% of Americans between ages 45 and 84 have atherosclerosis and don’t know it.
Current atherosclerosis treatments focus on lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) using statins – a group of medications that inhibit the enzyme that helps produce cholesterol.
“Unfortunately, many patients are nonrespondent to statins, experience acute atherosclerotic events despite successful lipid-lowering, and discontinue their medication due to adverse side effects,” Chung said.
To this end, Chung’s lab focused directly on vascular smooth muscle cells (vSMCs), which are of particular interest because the majority of cells found in artery plaques are of vSMC origin. Chung and her team developed a strategy to deliver microRNA-145 to vascular smooth muscle cells. MicroRNA-145 works by directly inhibiting the migration of vSMCs and their proliferation and transformation into the atherogenic cells that lead to plaques. Chung’s studies showed that delivery of the microRNA-145 via nanoparticles inhibited plaque formation and instability.
The project will now conduct further safety, mechanistic and efficacy studies to move the technology toward clinical translation.
Chung is an expert in molecular design, nanomedicine and tissue engineering to generate biomaterial strategies for clinical applications. A key focus of her lab’s research involves the design and application of self-assembling, peptide nanoparticles for targeted cardiovascular and cancer treatments, as well as for the treatment of kidney disease.
A faculty member in the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, Chung received her B.A. in Molecular Biology with honors from Scripps College, Claremont, California, and her Ph.D. from the Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences Program and the Department of Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University.
In 2019, Chung was named a NANOMED New Innovator by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and was also presented with the 2020 Rising Star Junior Faculty Award by the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES).
She was named 2019 Orange County Engineering Council Outstanding Young Engineer and a Journal of Materials Chemistry B Emerging Investigator for 2019.
Chung was awarded the 2018 NIH New Innovator Award to develop a new approach to a type of kidney disease known as autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, the most commonly inherited kidney disorder.
Chung is a recipient of the SQI-Baxter Early Career Award, the American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Postdoctoral Research Grant from the Chicago Biomedical Consortium, and the K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the NIH. She is a member of the Society for Biomaterials, the BMES, and the American Institute for Chemical Engineers.
Published on July 1st, 2022
Last updated on April 3rd, 2023