Mississippi University for Women professor researching new treatment methods for cystic fibrosis

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Dr. Ghanshyam Heda, a biology professor at the Mississippi University for Women, has spent 25 years researching treatment methods for cystic fibrosis.

The disorder causes serious damage to a person’s lungs, digestive system, and other organs. According to the Mayo Clinic, the life expectancy for someone with CF is 30 to 40 (sometimes 50) years.

“They are not able to breathe properly, they have asthma-like symptoms, or they’re not able to digest the food properly because of not having enough pancreatic juices and enzymes,” Dr. Heda says.

He says the root cause is a lack of a specific protein known as CFTR (Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane-conductance Regulator). Throughout his career, Dr. Heda has traveled the globe studying new ways to create that protein.

“We take a human cell line, for example, we work here on a lung, human lung cell line,” Dr. Heda explains. “We have two kinds: one healthy cell line and one that is similar to a cystic fibrosis patient.”

Most recently, Dr. Heda spent two months at the University of Bristol in England working with Dr. David Sheppard on the functional study of chemical compounds that he believes could become potential new treatment options. He is currently studying three different compounds and how they change a cell, based on how much or how long the cells are exposed to them.

“Once we have treated them for enough time, like sometimes 24 hours, sometimes for 48 hours,” he says. “After treatment is done, then we can harvest the cells. And we can prepare we break them, break them over, and then we can measure total protein.”

MUW junior Maggie Taylor is assisting Dr. Heda with his research, especially when it comes to recording the results of his various tests.

“We log the amount of compound we treat the cells with, the temperature we treat the cells with,” she says.  “There’s a lot of factors that we have to log and keep track of.”

Because the right combination could mean better lives for those with CF.

“Because of all the treatments that are available, all the CF patients, even in the last 40 years, are now living into their 40s and 50s,” Dr. Heda says. “This is possible not because of just one drug, but because of many drugs.”

He hopes one of the compounds he is studying will be one of those many drugs that can help extend that life expectancy even more.

Dr. Heda says that his lab is the only one in Mississippi currently conducting this type of research. He has received a $15,000 grant to continue studying potential cystic fibrosis treatments.

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