UA Steele Children’s Research Center Scientist, Claire Larmonier, Awarded Prestigious Grant to Explore Protein’s Role in GI Diseases

Claire Larmonier, PhD, will explore the role a protein plays in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a chronic, uncontrolled inflammation in the intestinal tract.
An assistant research scientist at the University of Arizona Steele Children’s Research Centerhas received a four-year, $459,406 KO1 “Mentored Research Scientist Development” award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NDDK).
 
Claire Larmonier, PhD, will explore the role a protein plays in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a chronic, uncontrolled inflammation in the intestinal tract. IBD is caused by an inappropriate and persistent activation of the immune system against normal intestinal bacteria.
 
The two most-common forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which affect nearly 1.5 million Americans. IBD can occur at any age, but most often is diagnosed in adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 25. Each year, approximately 30,000 individuals are diagnosed with IBD in the United States. The disease is characterized by persistent abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue and weight loss.
 
Dr. Larmonier will conduct the study, “The pathogenic role of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP-1) in experimental colitis," with guidance from her mentors, Fayez K. Ghishan, MD, professor and head, UA Department of Pediatrics, and Pawel Kiela, PhD, associate professor.
 
“A KO1 grant is a highly competitive and prestigious award intended to train the future scientists in this country,” said Dr. Ghishan, her primary research mentor. “This accomplishment is an important stepping stone that will facilitate Dr. Larmonier’s ability to acquire independent NIH grants in the future.”
 
PARP-1 protein is a molecule with many functions, one of which is modulating the inflammatory responses, including those observed in autoimmune diseases such as IBD.
 
Dr. Larmonier’s research aims to identify the cell types in which inhibition of PARP-1 would have the most significant anti-inflammatory effect, as well as to understand the mechanism of the negative effects of PARP-1 in IBD to facilitate further development of novel ways to treat the disease.
 
“Once we can identify the exact mechanism by which PARP-1 is modulating the inflammatory signaling pathways and responses in a particular cell type, we may be able to develop strategic therapies and treatments for patients suffering from IBD,” said Dr. Larmonier.
 
“As Dr. Larmonier’s co-mentor, I’m thrilled about the opportunity for growth as an independent scientist this highly competitive award gives her,” said Dr. Kiela. “It has been a privilege to witness firsthand how her skills and knowledge have grown from a PhD candidate to a junior faculty member.”