UNC Health Talk

UNC researchers campaign for new funding to treat VTE

UNC School of Medicine researchers are part of a campaign to encourage continued funding for researching venous thromboembolism (VTE), which affects 900,000 people each year in the United States.

Of those 900,000 Americans who are affected, between 60,000 and 100,000 people die from the condition, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Society of Hematology (ASH) produced a video that outlines research priorities, and urges the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue funding research.

Of those 900,000 Americans who are affected by VTE, between 60,000 and 100,000 people die from the condition.

“VTE is a term that encompasses deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism,” explained Nigel Key, MB, ChB, FRCP, director of the UNC Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center, and Harold R. Roberts Distinguished Professor at the UNC School of Medicine.

“What has made biomedical research so important and so successful in the U.S. has really been dependent on NIH funding,” Key said. “As we look to our competitive edge in the world, it’s really important that we continue to fund research at the NIH level.”

Alisa Wolberg, PhD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, said NIH funding is critical to her lab’s and other labs’ research on VTE and other hematologic conditions. Her lab is currently researching VTE and what leads to blot clot formation.

“Through a series of experiments, we found that a protein that is involved in stabilizing blood clots – called fibrin – essentially traps and retains those red blood cells present in the clot,” Wolberg said. “Fibrin is a really interesting protein because it looks essentially like a mesh. It’s like a web. It has the elasticity of spider silk, so it’s able to reinforce that clot and make it very stable.”

Wolberg’s lab also found that an enzyme that stabilizes the fibrin – factor XIII – is also critical in the clotting process.

“If we didn’t have NIH funding, we simply couldn’t do what it is that we’re doing,” Wolberg said.