Studying blood for the greater good

Elizabeth Bowles wants to eliminate drug side effects in patients with conditions like diabetes or cystic fibrosis.

Graduate student Elizabeth Bowles works in Schrenk Hall for research related to red blood cells on Tuesday March 15, 2016. Sam O'Keefe/Missouri S&T

Graduate student Elizabeth Bowles works in Schrenk Hall for research related to red blood cells on Tuesday March 15, 2016. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

She’s working with Phelps County Regional Medical Center in Rolla to test blood samples from willing patients to see what effect the release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) has on blood vessel dilation. She also wants to see if ATP levels tie in with different medical conditions.

ATP is the chemical energy within cells that powers metabolism. Patients with diabetes, hypertension, cystic fibrosis and a host of other conditions have reduced ATP release.

“We are looking to improve ATP release and correct some of the adverse effects of the condition patients have,” Bowles says.

Bowles says FDA-approved drugs that stimulate ATP release exist, but they are known to have severe adverse side effects. She hopes to help reduce the problem of side effects with a new drug-delivery system.

“If you package the drug in a liposome — a spherical vesicle — you can deliver the drug directly to the red blood cell and stimulate ATP release without causing other side effects,” Bowles says. “The liposomes are FDA-approved, but not for this use.”

Bowles says her goal is to correct both the problem of reduced ATP release and the adverse side effects with this one new approach.

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