Jae-Sung Kim, Ph.D., receives $1.27 million NIH grant for liver research

Jae Sung Kim, Ph.D.Throughout our lives, our livers work hard to keep us healthy — removing waste, packing away the nutrients we need and converting our food into energy.

As we get older, all this work can take a toll on the body’s largest organ.

Liver disease is one of the ten most common causes of death in the U.S., according to the American Liver Foundation. As cases of liver disease increase, so does the need for liver resections and transplants. Successful outcomes from these surgeries depend largely on the liver’s ability to bounce back after all or some of its blood supply is cut off during surgery.

Many livers are seriously, and often permanently, damaged due to limited or no blood and oxygen flow during surgery or transportation before transplantation.

UF surgical researchers are investigating this type of damage, called ischemia/reperfusion injury, and ways to prevent or reverse it. Jae Sung Kim, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of surgery, has received a $1.27 million, four-year grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to fund his research on the topic.

Kim proposes that boosting autophagy, the process by which cells remove old parts to remain functional, would enhance liver cells’ ability to recover after ischemia/reperfusion injury. He has designed two experimental models to test the validity of this idea using cells in the lab.