More than 50 percent of men have difficulty with urination as they age, but UMass Boston biologist Jill Macoska says that this isn’t actually a natural part of aging. Macoska’s research, supported by a new $8.3 million award, will uncover new ways to diagnose and treat an aging population in need of more targeted urological care.
Jill Macoska is the Alton J. Brann Endowed Distinguished Professor in Science and Mathematics. She is also the director of the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy, housed in the Venture Development Center at UMass Boston.
The National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, part of the National Institutes of Health, have awarded UMass Boston and the University of Wisconsin-Madison $8.3 million over five years to create a research center that will advance knowledge in the treatment of benign urologic disorders and diseases through the George M. O’Brien Urology Cooperative Research Centers Program. Macoska will collaborate with several faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
According to Macoska, there are three ways that urinary tract problems develop. The first two are well understood: Either the prostate swells and restricts the urethra, or neurological problems cause a loss of control for an older adult.
But Macoska’s lab has shown that there is a third cause of urinary problems: fibrosis in the urinary tract. This fibrosis could be the result of a decades-old infection that triggers an inflammatory response in the urethra, and in turn causes fibrosis.
“Since the initial infection could have happened years ago, self reporting doesn’t work,” says Macoska. “We’re looking for biomarkers that will allow doctors to perform a simple, non-invasive urine test to look for fibrosis.” Using biomarkers, doctors will be able to get the information they need from a simple urine test instead of an invasive biopsy procedure.
Macoska is excited to conduct research in this new, collaborative urology research center.
“The days of closeting yourself in your lab are gone,” says Macoska. “You can learn so much more through collaboration, sharing new technologies, and sharing new ideas.”