1 November 2017

NIH funds grant to combat stroke

Samuel Grant (left) and Teng Ma at the MagLab's 900 MHz NMR magnet, which they will use for their stroke research. Samuel Grant (left) and Teng Ma at the MagLab's 900 MHz NMR magnet, which they will use for their stroke research. Trisha Radulovich, FAMU-FSU Engineering

Researchers will develop new treatments to prevent deadly condition.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Two Florida State University researchers have received a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to find new treatments for stroke. The pair, which includes MagLab researcher Sam Grant, will conduct some of their work in the MagLab's world-record 900 MHz NMR magnet.

In the United States, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and one of the primary causes of disability. But the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration has limited effectiveness.

Now Grant, director of the MRI user program at the FSU-headquartered MagLab and associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (COE), and Teng Ma, professor and chair of the COE's Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, will focus their efforts on developing new treatments that could treat this complicated medical issue.

The team will investigate how to use cells from bone marrow and fat tissue as a way to treat what's called an ischemic stroke. This form of stroke occurs as a result of a blockage in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain and accounts for about 87 percent of all cases, according to the American Heart Association.

To date, a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator is the mainstay of stroke treatment, but it is only effective if administered within a short time after stroke onset and only for a small percentage of stroke patients.

"Our long-term goal is to develop cell therapy technology for stroke treatment," Ma said. "Specifically, we will develop technology that allows us to produce therapeutically competent cells as well as the ability to monitor their fate in the brain. The knowledge gained will help establish cell therapy as a viable technology in stroke treatment."

Researchers will look at cells called human mesenchymal stem cells that are found in both marrow and fat tissue. Grant and Ma believe that they can pretreat these cells and deliver them into the brain of patients who have experienced a stroke.

These cells have attracted the attention of scientists and clinicians because of their potential for tissue repair and regeneration after migration to sites of tissue injuries, including damage in the brain.

"Use of these preconditioned cells should increase their therapeutic effect and viability once transplanted in the stroked brain," Ma said.

A major barrier, however, is that many of these cells die once transplanted, which greatly reduces the therapeutic benefits for stroke treatment. Additionally, the fate and transport of these cells to the stroke lesion are not well understood.

The joint effort of the investigators' laboratories seeks to address these problems. Ma's laboratory has developed a unique bioreactor system to enhance the cells' survival rate after transplantation by preconditioning them as 3D aggregates or clumps, which have demonstrated improved viability and increased migration in cell cultures. Grant's laboratory has developed techniques and instruments to take advantage of the sophisticated magnet technology at the National MagLab that can assess the efficacy of transplanted cells in a living organism.

They will use the lab's unique 900 MHz NMR instrument — essentially a super-powered MRI featuring a 21.1 tesla magnet — to track cells, observe the cells' impact on metabolic and ionic recovery and assess the mechanisms that can be optimized to improve stroke outcomes.

"This machine provides the sensitivity and specificity to monitor the fate and transport of implanted cells over time while also letting us detect early markers for stroke recovery," Grant said. "This will allow us to make critical decisions about how cells can be better prepared to treat stroke."

By Kathleen Haughney / Florida State University News

The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is the world’s largest and highest-powered magnet facility. Located at Florida State University, the University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory, the interdisciplinary National MagLab hosts scientists from around the world to perform basic research in high magnetic fields, advancing our understanding of materials, energy and life. The lab is funded by the National Science Foundation (DMR-1157490) and the state of Florida. For more information, visit us online at nationalmaglab.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest at NationalMagLab.