GALVESTON, Texas - University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researcher Javier V. Navarro has received a three-year, $572,000 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to advance his research on the structural biology of G protein-coupled receptors.

Chemokines are pro-inflammatory mediators for the recruitment of leukocytes from the circulation to the site of an infection or injury. Chemokine receptors are seven transmembrane helix-containing G protein-coupled receptors. Many of them are effective and selective drug targets for the treatment of inflammatory and immune disorders.

The mechanisms of action of chemokine receptors are not yet defined, due largely to a lack of information on their high-resolution structures and dynamics. According to Navarro, this study aims to develop novel technologies to overcome the major hurdles that have precluded structural determination of integral membrane proteins. The major goal of the study is to elucidate the chemokine receptors' crystal structures.

"Our project seeks to lay the foundation for developing drugs that could boost our immune system when we are faced with a life-threatening infection, or to dampen it to prevent tissue damage caused by auto-immune disorders or rejection of transplanted organs," Navarro said.

The grant is funded by the National Institutes of Health Roadmap for Medical Research initiative.