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ND brain researcher receives NFL grant

Amanda Gray | Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The National Football League (NFL) will fund Notre Dame’s chemistry and biochemistry departments to research strokes and other brain injuries, professor Mayland Chang said.

Chang, who has been working on the project for 15 years, studies gelatinase-based brain diseases. Funded in part by the National Institute of Health, the researched treatments are getting close to FDA trials, she said.

Gelatinase is a type of enzyme that breaks down cell walls and can cause tumor metastasis in cancer, as well as problems in traumatic brain injury (TBI), strokes, aneurysms and diabetic wounds.

Chang’s husband, professor Shahriar Mobashery, discovered a compound at Wayne State University called SB-3CT that could be a possible treatment for the brain diseases. Mobashery now teaches at Notre Dame.

The SB-3CT compound is an inhibitor triggered by the enzyme’s reaction in the cell.

Chang said a compound like SB-3CT could help stop brain damage similarly to how it helps stroke patients.

The compound was synthesized more than 450 times to find a way to make it water soluble, so it can be put into an IV or given to a patient in the form of an injection, Chang said.

If all goes well, the drug could be in use with stroke patients in seven to nine years, Chang said.

“Would this be great to have as an injectable treatment?” she said. “It could be on the sidelines. If you get a concussion, you can get a shot. This is eventually our hope.”

The current drug used to dissolve clots in ischemic, or clot-forming, stroke patients is tissue Plasminogen Activator, or tPA, Chang said. This drug dissolves the clot, but increases gelatinase enzymes, which causes hemorrhaging and brain swelling. When SB-3CT is given in tandem with this drug in experiments, it has reduced side affects.

Researchers have developed an experimental model to test compounds.

“We’re always looking for better ways to treat,” she said.

Chang, whose son is a competitive snow boarder, witnessed the treatment for TBI when her son had a concussion last year.

“If you have a concussion, they can do cognitive treatment,” she said. “They do simple things. For example, they ask you to list words that begin with the same letter. They also make you take a rest — no physical activity, nothing to rattle your brain. They don’t really do anything else.”

The research team is currently searching for funding to have toxicology studies done, which will then put the drug into FDA clinical trials, Chang said.

She said the team hopes the compound will improve emergency response to brain problems.

“Given in an ambulance setting, it would work quickly,” she said.