Alyssa Panitch, Edward Teller Professor in the Biomedical Engineering department and Executive Associate Dean in the College of Engineering, is one of the latest recipients of the Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIR) Grant. The STAIR Grant program, managed by Venture Catalyst and funded by the UC Davis Office of Research, provides funding to UC Davis researchers to support translational science and innovative research.
The award will help to fund Panitch’s research with ischemia-reperfusion injury. When an individual has reduced blood flow to the heart, such as in the case of vascular disease, blood flow is reduced to the cardiac tissue downstream of the diseased blood vessel. When blood flow is reduced, the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen and nutrients, resulting in ischemia, which can lead to cell death. Ironically, when medical procedures are used to reopen the artery and start blood flow, there is additional injury to the surrounding tissue that was starved for oxygen and is now inflamed, causing other smaller blood vessels to close off and reduce blood flow to the tissue. This ultimately results in causing more damage to the tissue after restarting blood flow than was present before. This occurrence is referred to as ischemia-reperfusion injury. Panitch is working on designing a molecule that will bind to any area with inflamed heart tissue as blood flow is restarted, resulting in improved blood flow, a reduced volume of damaged tissue and improved outcomes.
Panitch and her team have already begun initial in vivo research with positive results. They are now interested in understanding the best dosing amount as well as how frequently doses should be given to help prepare the molecule ultimately for human clinical testing.
“It can be really hard to get funding for early studies when you’re trying to translate something. I’m really excited to have the seed funding to allow us to do those translational studies,” said Panitch when asked about the benefits of receiving the STAIR Grant. “The idea that we might have something that will improve human health, and we can start to look at how to develop that, is super exciting!”