Researcher Ashlesh Murthy '06 receives $144K NIH grant to combat female infertility

Ashlesh Murthy

Ashlesh Murthy

>> Watch a KENS-TV news story (8/4/10) on Ashlesh Murthy's research on chlamydia.

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(Aug. 12, 2010)--Ashlesh Murthy, Ph.D. '06, research assistant professor in the Department of Biology and a member of the South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases, recently received a two-year $144,500 RO3 grant from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease in the National Institutes of Health to uncover new ways to counteract and prevent the side effects of chlamydia. Because of this grant, UTSA researchers will be one step closer to combating the devastating effects of chlamydia in infected women.

A leading cause of sexually transmitted disease, Chlamydia trachomatis affects approximately 4 million new people in the United States each year, the majority of whom are women. The disease has little effect on men, but causes major damage to the reproductive systems of women and can lead to ectopic pregnancies and even infertility.

Murthy has worked with mentor Bernard Arulanandam, professor of biology and associate dean of research for scientific innovation in the UTSA College of Sciences, on other projects related to the disease. Most notably, the UTSA pair teamed with UT Health Science Center scientist Guangming Zhong to secure the university's first revenue-producing license to develop a vaccine against the disease.

In this new project, Murthy will focus on the immune cells in the body that can cause some of the complications that occur in the upper genital tract after the body has been infected with chlamydia. Preliminary studies have shown that mice, which lack these immune cells, display fewer complications while still clearing the infection. Murthy's experiments suggest that it is not the bacteria, but the human response to the bacteria, that leads to some of the damage that occurs during chlamydia infection.

This grant follows funding Murthy received from the San Antonio Area Foundation. Murthy was chosen to give an oral presentation of his research at the 14th International Congress of Immunology, to be held August 22-27 in Kansai, Japan. The meeting, conducted every four years, is attended by thousands of immunologists worldwide. After the conference, Murthy plans to publish his findings in a scientific journal.

"Being chosen to present my research at this prestigious conference is an honor, and indicates the importance of this study to the field of immunology," said Murthy. "I will strive to keep the momentum going to propel future work in order to develop means to prevent and treat chlamydia infections."