First Quantum Grant to fund stem cell repair of damage from stroke

Team from Rice, Baylor College of Medicine aims for 'neuro-vascular regeneration'

HOUSTON, Oct. 9, 2006 The National Institutes of Health has named researchers at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and Rice University in Houston as the first and only recipients of the inaugural Quantum Grant for their international research initiative to regenerate damaged brain cells and blood vessels for the treatment of stroke.

The three-year, $2.9 million grant, funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of the NIH, will support research on neuro-vascular regeneration, which will make new brain tissues in the laboratory. The new brain tissue is planned to have its own blood supply to allow it to be placed into the damaged brains of stroke patients where it will provide a source of neural and vascular cells that will continue to develop and differentiate, repairing the injured tissue in the process.

"This project represents an integrated effort among leading scientists who have jointly authored numerous publications, mentored students and postdoctoral fellows, as well as collaborated on Bioengineering Research Partnership grants," said Jennifer West, who is leading the project's efforts at Rice. West is the Isabel C. Cameron Professor of Bioengineering and director of Rice's Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering.

The newly created NIBIB Quantum Grants Program supports researchers in the development of innovative biomedical technologies in hopes of making a significant impact in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. Funding was awarded to only one grant application out of more than 100 submitted.

Karen Hirschi, deputy director of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center within the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at BCM, is the principal investigator for the "Neuro-Vascular Regeneration" project, which will be conducted in conjunction with an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Rice, the National Institute for Medical Research in London, and King's College in London.

"Each member of our team has made significant contributions to the advancement of their respective fields of research and will now be able to devote substantial efforts to integrating their work and developing methods of using neuro-vascular regeneration to help stroke victims," Hirschi said.

The project team members come from diverse and complementary areas of expertise in developmental neurobiology and vascular biology, stem cell biology, genetics, biomedical imaging, tissue engineering, and clinical cellular therapies. Spanning fields of science that include cell and molecular biology, animal models of disease, and hopefully human clinical trials, the "Neuro-Vascular Regeneration" project falls in line with the NIH roadmap for the development of multi-disciplinary and translational science.

The BCM team also includes project co-developer Mary Dickinson, assistant professor of molecular physiology and biophysics at BCM; Dr. Thomas Zwaka, assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology in the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at BCM; and Malcolm Brenner, professor of medicine and pediatrics and director of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at BCM.

Robin Lovell-Badge, head of the division of developmental genetics at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, serves as co-principal investigator of the project. Other investigators in London include Jack Price and Mike Modo, both of the Centre for the Cellular Basis of Behaviour at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College.

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