Maria Aleman

Maria Aleman

Cardiovascular disease and blood clotting disorders are the leading cause of death in North Carolina. And Maria Aleman is creating discoveries to help fight blood clots more effectively.

Aleman is one of the 2014 recipients of the Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Awards. The Graduate School presents the Impact Awards each year to graduate students and recent graduate alumni whose outstanding research benefits North Carolina’s people and communities.

From 2006 to 2013, 172 projects spanning many academic disciplines have received Impact Award honors.

Inappropriate blood clot formation within blood vessels, called thrombosis, plays a major role in cardiovascular disease and related disorders. Aleman, a recent doctoral graduate in pathology, studied how blood clots form, as well as their composition.

“Maria’s work is extremely exciting because we anticipate her discovery could translate directly into a treatment to prevent cardiovascular disease,” said adviser Alisa Wolberg, Ph.D.

Researchers have thought that red blood cells are passively trapped in clots. Aleman discovered that the retention of red blood cells in clots is actually an active process, mediated by a substance in the blood known as factor XIII (FXIII). Through mouse model studies and the use of human blood samples, she found that if FXIII activation is inhibited or delayed, red blood cell retention in a clot and, therefore, the size of the clot itself are reduced.

Aleman’s data suggest inhibition of FXIII may be an effective method for reducing clot size. Her findings establish a new paradigm for understanding how blood clots form and a novel avenue for reducing thrombosis in patients in North Carolina.