Judith Hellman Wins Anesthesia Award to Study Sepsis

By Mitzi Baker

Judith Hellman, MD, has won the 2015 Frontiers in Anesthesia Research Award to explore novel ways of understanding and combating sepsis. The award, given by the International Anesthesia Research Society once every three years, comes with $750,000 in funding.

Hellman, an intensive care unit physician and professor of anesthesia and perioperative care, began studying sepsis as an anesthesia resident 20 years ago. “My research has always been driven by my observations seeing patients with sepsis and trying to think of where in that process we can intervene,” she said. “Although the research I do is very basic science, it is done directly with an eye toward clinical applications.”

Sepsis is a serious condition that can be triggered by an infection, and results in excessive inflammation throughout the body. It often leads to death from multi-organ failure.

For the last decade, Hellman has been investigating how endothelial cells, which line all the blood vessels of the body, contribute to the problems that are caused by sepsis, including unrestrained inflammation, disturbances in coagulation, leakiness of blood vessels and shock. “This is a long-term program that is getting very interesting, and this award allows us to pursue it further,” she said.

The current funding, which began July 1, will support Hellman’s studies of the molecular pathways inside endothelial cells that play key roles in many complications of sepsis, ultimately leading to organ failure. Understanding the role these pathways play will assist the design of more effective treatment strategies.

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