The Arizona Biomedical Research Commission (ABRC) recently awarded Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and Arizona State University (ASU) two grants worth $450,000 each to study spinal cord injuries and brain tumors.
Barrow’s grant application for spinal cord injury research scored the highest of all submitted grants. Researchers at Barrow and ASU will use the grant to develop new hydrogels (liquids that gel) to stimulate the ends of damaged fiber on the spinal cord to grow and bypass the injured or scarred area of the spinal cord.
Surgically placed at the site of spinal cord damage, the hydrogels form themselves into scaffolds, which will hopefully enable the cells and the ends of damaged fiber to cross the other side of the spinal cord avoiding additional damage of the infected area.
“This study uses the latest in new materials from the bioengineering field that will be put to use against one of our most pressing problems in neurosurgery,” says Mark Preul, M.D., Barrow Newsome Endowed Chair of Neurosurgery Research, who heads the grant along with bioengineer, Alyssa Panitch, Ph.D.
The brain tumor grant will be used to focus on developing proteins that stimulate the immune system to attack malignant brain tumors. The grant money will also investigate if the protein works with melanoma skin cancer, which has a high tendency to metastasize to the brain.
“After decades of work, we have made little progress against malignant brain tumors. We need to develop ways that the body’s own systems can fight against these tumors. Melanoma is of particular interest to us because of a high rate of this dangerous skin cancer occurs in Arizona,” says Dr. Preul, principal investigator of the study.
Both studies will be done in collaboration with Arizona State University and will take place over the next three years.
Barrow is world-renowned for its outstanding neurological and neurosurgical care. The center is routinely recognized as one of the top ten neuroscience centers in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.