A biochemist at the Arkansas Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Smith was recently awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study enzyme regulation, the cause of many diseases.

Lance Bridges, chair of Biochemistry, Molecular & Cell Sciences for the medical college, was awarded the three-year grant worth $323,628. Brandy Ree, assistant professor of Biochemistry, Molecular, & Cell Sciences at the college, will serve as a co-investigator for the NIH study.

“The loss of regulation of enzymes known as ADAMs culminate in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease,” Bridges explained. “This project investigates an unexplored way to regulate ADAM function that will provide new avenues for therapeutic development in diseases associated with aberrant enzyme activity.”

Criteria for grant selection included having undergraduates involved in the research. The medical college has had students work in the lab from Ouachita Baptist University at Arkadelphia, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. In addition to paying stipends to the undergraduate students, the grant will also fund a full-time laboratory technician.

Kenneth Hensley, chairman of Research Committee for the medical college, said it is “monumental” for a staff member at the new medical college to receive the National Institutes of Health grant because it “establishes the fact that ARCOM is a sound investment and we are generating and disseminating new knowledge to the medical field.”

Ross Longley, associate dean of Preclinical Medicine and Research, said Bridges’ success in obtaining research dollars from NIH “speaks to recognition of his scientific expertise by his colleagues at the national level, and Arkansas Colleges of Health Education’s development of a state of the art research facility to support his and other faculty research efforts.”

The Arkansas Colleges of Health Education started its first college, the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, in August 2017. The Arkansas College of Health Science is also currently under development to offer doctorates in physical therapy and occupational therapy, as well as a physician assistant degree.