UICOMP receives federal grant to continue ischemic stroke research

In an exciting round of Illinois healthcare news, the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP) was awarded $1.8 million to advance ischemic stroke drug research.  

Ischemic strokes occur when clots form in the brain’s blood vessels leading to the brain, or in remote blood vessels, from which they then travel to the brain. These clots interrupt blood flow to the brain’s cells. About 80 percent of all strokes are ischemic.

In the preliminary statistics available for 2018, stroke accounts for 1 of every 19 deaths in the US, and kills someone in the US about every 3 minutes 45 seconds. Stroke ranks number 5 among all cause of death in the US, and kills 133,000 people a year.

Dr. Krishna Kumar Veeravalli, a UICOMP assistant professor in the departments of cancer biology and pharmacology, neurosurgery, and neurology, admits in his Ph.d thesis, despite decades of research, no clinically effective pharmacotherapies exist to facilitate cellular functional recovery after a stroke.

UICOMP research has a real chance to make a difference, and the newly received federal grant will help smooth the way. The team identified a specific blood enzyme which floods the brain after an ischemic stroke, but is not found in a healthy brain. If producing this particular matrix metalloproteinase-12, or MMP-12 can be prevented, further brain damage after the stroke can be avoided, researchers have found.

“What we’ve seen is remarkable and promising in terms of providing a new line of treatment for ischemic stroke,” said Dr. Veeravalli. ”Our current research targets both the ischemic core and the penumbra by a combination of two cutting edge approaches; stem cell transplantation and gene silencing, which we believe could significantly improve the microenvironment of ischemic brain as well as neurological recovery after ischemic stroke. To our knowledge, this is the first time a study has been designed which targets both the ischemic core and the penumbra by a combination of two novel approaches. Our current research could offer a potential therapeutic strategy to treat stroke.”

MMP-12 will probably be a considered a repurposed drug, as are the ones on which Healx is focused, since it is already in clinical trials related to respiratory diseases. Its potential is extremely significant, given the fact that the healthcare market is enormous, with over $3.2 trillion of annual spending in the United States in 2015. Healthcare startups will play a pivotal role in speeding up the development of innovative treatments to counter the devastating effects of disease.

Click here to the step-by-step guide to effective online reputation management for doctors