East Tennessee State University Department of Internal Medicine assistant professor Dr. Ling Wang has previously been awarded an ETSU Research Development Committee (RDC) Major Grant of over $8,000 and is now researching ways to better treat patients who have Hepatitis C or other chronic viral infections.

According to MedicineNet, Hepatitis C is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. Other parts of the virus are Hepatitis A and B. Hepatitis C can cause liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, and even death in some cases.

According to an Office of University Relations press release, Wang is currently trying to understand how certain enzymes in the body are prevented from repairing DNA in individuals suffering from viral infections.

“Chronic viral infection can build DNA damage and accelerate premature aging of some cells,” Wang said in the press release. “But how some pathways in the body are prohibited from preventing these things from happening remains poorly understood.”

Wang will be using the research grant to better understand the important mechanisms immune to the viruses and search for effective ways to invoke normal responses.

According to the release, Wang believes the inhibition of the enzyme known as ATM, or ataxia telangiectasia-mutated protein, accelerates DNA damage and the erosion of a person’s T-cells, which are cells that actively participate in the immune response. The importance of learning about these mechanisms can save the lives of those suffering from viruses like Hepatitis C.

About 2.7-3.9 million people in the U.S. currently live with chronic Hepatitis C infections.

Wang has previously studied the causes of childhood obesity, being awarded a grant to examine the influence of various childcare settings, such as childcare centers, home-based care and parental care, on the risk of obesity from childhood through adolescence.

“I love to help people and work on challenging problems,” Wang said in a Sept. 16 ETSU News Release, “and one of the best ways to do that is by combating chronic diseases that affect the lives of people around the world.”

For more information on his research, you can contact Wang at wangl2@etsu.edu.