Nutrition and Food Science Professor Seeks to Improve Human Health with $2.1 Million in Prestigious New Grant Funding

Dr. Rahaman in his lab

Image Credit: Rishov Goswami

September 19, 2017 Samantha Watters

Inflammation is a common issue connecting virtually all diseases, from cancer to cardiovascular diseases to fibrosis, or the hardening of soft tissues in your body. This is something that universally affects so many people, making the impact of truly innovative and novel research in this area difficult to fully quantify. That is why Dr. Shaik O. Rahaman of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources was just awarded two separate grants totaling over $2 million in funding to support this work.

Dr. Rahaman’s prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 grant ($1.7 million) was submitted only two years after he joined the college faculty and was accepted on its first submission without a single revision. That is an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish, and it truly speaks to the merit of the research he is conducting. Under this grant, he is examining the role that a calcium signaling pathway plays in your body’s ability to accept or reject medical devices and implants. Everyone knows someone in their lives who has needed a medical implant, whether for back surgery, knee surgery, dental, heart issues, or otherwise. What you may not know is that your body can sense a foreign object and go into foreign body response (FBR), rejecting a necessary medical device any time up to two years or so after implantation. If your body doesn’t accept the implant, it will fight it, causing inflammation and problems for you and the device. This creates so many more painful and potentially life-threatening health issues for the patient, and costs billions of dollars a year in health care dollars. If Dr. Rahaman’s work can help shed some light on why bodies fight these implants, he could help resolve this critical issue and improve the health of millions of people getting future implants and devices.

In addition to this work, Dr. Rahaman also won a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF; $400 K) to examine how stiffness or rigidity in cells and tissues can affect and regulate a particularly important regulatory gene that has implications in the development of cancer and cardiovascular diseases among others, two of the largest killers by far in this country. The research Dr. Rahaman is conducting under these two grants has infinite potential to enormously improve health outcomes across the country and around the world by filling in these fundamental knowledge gaps that affect each and every one of us and our current or future health issues.

His work represents a collaboration across the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He is partnering with Dr. Xiaoping Zhu, Acting Associate Dean and Chair of the Department of Veterinary Medicine, for the NIH R01 grant. Dr. Li Ma, Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, is his co-investigator for the NSF grant. Having the capacity to cultivate these partnerships and conduct every aspect of the research within the college is part of what makes the college and the University of Maryland a world-class research institution, with a strong and tangible commitment to human health and well-being.