New Grant: Award Supports Stroke Research

Zoran Nenadic

July 22, 2022 – Principal investigators: Zoran Nenadic, (co-principal investigator), professor and chair of biomedical engineering, and Dr. An Do (principal investigator), assistant professor of neurology

Award: $616,682 over three years

Funding agency: National Science Foundation: Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET)

Project: Feasibility of Engineered Neural Networks for Neuro-Restoration After Cortical Stroke

Over 8 million people in the U.S. are living with chronic stroke. The resulting disabilities lead to significant public health costs and decreased quality of life. With no means to satisfactorily restore functions after stroke, new effective regenerative approaches are much needed. Therefore, a new concept of “engineered neural networks” (ENN) is proposed. The ENN is envisioned to contain neurons derived from human adult stem cells and be structured to have precise inputs and feedback loops. These connections will enable the ENN’s integration with other brain and body areas and thereby learn behaviors. Ultimately, this integration process can lead to ENNs replacing stroke-damaged brain and any associated functions.

Before this goal can be achieved, the first step is to develop a benchtop testbed cultured neural network (CNN) and verify that it can be trained to perform an arbitrary sensory task and motor behavior. Successful completion of this study would demonstrate that CNNs can be trained to encode arbitrary behaviors and interact with other brain and body areas. This would justify further research to pursue the development of ENNs and methods to implant such systems into the stroke-damaged brain. Ultimately, this may restore brain resources in a functionally meaningful manner, which may in turn lead to ground-breaking regenerative treatments for stroke rehabilitation.

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