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NIH Honors Groundbreaking DNA Research At UK


A University of Kentucky professor has been named one of the National Institutes of Health’s 10 Director’s Pioneer Award winners for 2014.

The award is handed out to creative scientists who adopt innovative approaches to biomedical questions that could produce major advances for human health down the line. In this case, the NIH chose to spotlight the work of Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati, professor and vice chair of the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences at UK, whose research team uncovered a new type of DNA.  

"This is probably the most exciting discovery that we've made in the last dozen years in my group," he says.

In addition to the DNA we’re all familiar with, and Mitochondrial DNA inherited from the mother, there is a third variety, according to Ambati’s research. And while it’s not yet clear exactly what role the new DNA plays in the cell, he says simply knowing it’s there will set a new course for researchers.

"It has the potential for opening entirely new doors, not only in biological understanding but also in the understanding of various disease, so in medicine at large," Dr. Ambati says.

As for the Pioneer Award, it’s far more than a certificate or a plaque. The honor will mean another $3.7M for Ambati’s research over the next five years.

It’s also the first such award ever given to an institute in Kentucky.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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