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May 22, 2018

Graduate student wins multiple awards for sepsis research

Natalija Glibetic, a Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering graduate student has won multiple awards for sepsis research conducted at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center in Michelle L. Matter’s lab of the Cancer Biology Program.

“I am incredibly grateful for all the support and attention my work has received. Sepsis is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals and accounts for 8.5 percent of cancer patient deaths each year, yet there are no sepsis-specific therapies. Native Hawaiians are particularly susceptible to cancer-associated sepsis, so it is crucial to develop these therapies for Hawai‘I,” said Glibetic. “Presenting at these symposiums, I was hoping that I could bring more attention to sepsis and the exciting work we are doing in Michelle L. Matter's lab at the UH Cancer Center. Hopefully, with my contribution we will be a step closer to stopping sepsis.”

  • 1st Place Best Poster - Graduate Division
    2018 JABSOM Biomedical & Health Disparities Symposium
    Poster: R-Ras: a key regulator of sepsis-mediated vascular permeability.
  • 30-year Anniversary Overall Best Master’s Poster
    2018 CTAHR's Student Research Symposium
    Poster: R-Ras: a key regulator of sepsis-mediated vascular permeability.
  • 1st Place Master’s 3-Minute Elevator Pitch
    2018 CTAHR’s 3-Minute Elevator Pitch Competition
    Going with the flow to stop sepsis
  • Runner-up 3 Minute Thesis Award
    2018 Graduate Division 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition
    Going with the flow to stop sepsis

Natalia Glibetic at the Graduate Division 3-Minute Thesis Competition
Natalia Glibetic at the Graduate Division 3-Minute Thesis Competition

Natalia Glibetic at the Graduate Division 3-Minute Thesis Competition
From left, Michelle L. Matter and Natalija Glibetic at the Master's 3-minute Elevator Pitch Competition


Research: Stopping sepsis-mediated blood vessel leakage
Glibetic’s research focuses on the regulation of vascular leakage in sepsis and cancer-associated sepsis. Glibetic found a protein that is crucial in maintaining blood vessel integrity that blocks sepsis-induced vascular leakage. The protein acts as a key switch from an unhealthy leaky vessel to a healthy blood vessel.

Blood vessels are lined by endothelial cells that act as gatekeepers for the movement of fluids and nutrients from the bloodstream into the underlying tissue. In sepsis these cells dysfunction leading to increased vascular leakage that can induce tissue swelling, multiple organ failure and death.

People with cancer are particularly susceptible to developing sepsis due to suppression of the immune system that can occur from the cancer itself or from surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy used to treat the disease. 8.5 percent of cancer patients die from cancer-associated sepsis each year, with Native Hawaiians being particularly susceptible. Currently there are no treatments for sepsis, and all therapies are supportive.

“We are now focused on moving our work into pre-clinical models as the protein is an exciting target for developing sepsis-specific therapies, and could lead to the development of treatments for other diseases such as atherosclerosis and diabetes,” said Glibetic.


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