$1.8 million NIH grant to fund new treatment for stroke patients

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Yan Li, who leads a project to improve the treatment of stroke patients.

The National Institutes of Health is funding a $1.8 million project led by a FAMU-FSU College of Engineering researcher that will use simplified, artificially grown mini-organs to create a drug that targets stroke-damaged brain cells.

The research team will use stem cells to create miniature organs that look like human brains. From these so-called brain organoids, they will harvest particles that are naturally released by cells and engineer them to act as drugs where needed in a patient’s brain.

They plan to use stem cells that can grow into any type of cell in the body and trick them into growing into various types of neural cells, the building blocks of a brain organoid. Their hypothesis is that particles collected by this method will carry specific molecules to the brain, making it a more effective therapy than particles from other sources.

“Because these particles come from cells that mimic the human brain, we think what they secrete will be more beneficial for treating the damaged brains of stroke patients,” said Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Yan Li, who leads the project. .

The collected particles released by the cells are used in various treatments. These particles – called extracellular vesicles – can help heal damaged cells. This is important for brain cells affected by stroke because these damaged cells are toxic to neurons, the nerve cells in the brain that use electrical and chemical signals to transmit information.

About 795,000 people suffer a stroke in the United States each year, making it one of the leading causes of death and disability in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most strokes occur when the blood supply to the brain is blocked, which is the type of stroke the researchers will focus on in this work.

Li will collaborate with Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Samuel Grant, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Tristan Driscoll, Professor Yi Zhou of the FSU College of Medicine, and College of Medicine researcher Li Sun on the five-year project. .

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