Dr. Tiziana Corsello-Gorgun assitant professor in the Department of Pediatrics

Dr. Tiziana Corsello-Gorgun awarded funding for research on extracellular vesicles

Dr. Tiziana Corsello, researcher and assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch, was awarded the Catalyst Award from the American Lung Association Research Institute to study extracellular vesicles and how they carry viral infections. The award comes with $50,000 for up to two years.

Corsello’s research was one of 129 projects to share $13.6 million in research funding from the American Lung Association.

Corsello’s team will work to discover what role extracellular vesicles have in carrying cellular mediators during a viral infection. The team will work to better understand extracellular vesicles and how they may be used to better target infections within the body.

“Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of the most common viruses affecting the respiratory system of children,” said Corsello, leader of the project. “Although new passive neutralizing antibody strategies have recently become available for prevention of virus-associated serious lower airway disease, neither a vaccine for infants that would prevent RSV infection in the upper airways nor a specific pharmacologic treatment have been developed to date.”

Particles released by the cells of the body, known as extracellular vesicles, are chemical messengers that affect the behavior of cells. Extracellular vesicles contain proteins and are able to change the cells’ behavior by delivering the proteins as signals to other cells.

“We identified extracellular vesicles proteins from airway cells during viral infection, mediating the infection,” Corsello explained. “Extracellular vesicles have the potential to carry medicine to target organs within the body.

“Our goal is to improve the knowledge of extracellular vesicles during viral infections,” she said. “This will help to provide the basis for potential extracellular vesicles mediated antiviral strategies to treat infections.” 

Corsello also is a member of the newly established UTMB Sealy Center for Lung Disease Inflammation and Remodeling, under the supervision of Dr. Roberto Garofalo.

Lung research is critical because 3,135,000 in Texas are living with lung disease and, each year, millions of people are impacted by respiratory viruses like RSV, COVID-19 and influenza. 

Through the Awards and Grants Program, the Lung Association supports trailblazing research, novel ideas and innovative approaches. The funded researchers investigate a wide range of lung health topics, including asthma, COPD, lung cancer, infectious lung diseases and more.