Department of Defense Funds Two Research Studies on Hydrocephalus

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Two hydrocephalus researchers have been awarded funding through the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). Dr. Bonnie Blazer-Yost, Professor of Biology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Dr. Jerold Chung, Professor in the Degenerative Disease Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, have been awarded grants totaling over $2,000,000 respectively through the Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) Investigator-Initiated Research Award.

The Research

The lab of Dr. Bonnie Blazer-Yost is testing drug candidates that could improve brain function in hydrocephalus patients. With funding through the Hydrocephalus Association 2015 Innovator Award generously supported by Team Hydro, Dr. Blazer-Yost has shown that a specific class of drugs can decrease cerebrospinal fluid production (CSF) and reduce the severity of the hydrocephalus in an animal model. The study entitled, “Development of Pharmacotherapies for the Treatment of Hydrocephalus,” will continue under her grant through the PRMRP. While initially focused on early interventions to minimize the severity of hydrocephalus in infants born with enlarged ventricles, the research could have applications in the continued treatment of hydrocephalus in all ages as well. In the future, this line of research could help patients manage CSF production. This could be particularly helpful if a person’s shunt is not draining enough CSF. Decreasing CSF production in this situation could help patients avoid emergency surgery and potentially decrease brain damage. Dr. Blazer-Yost has now established a team of experts to advise on the direct applicability of these drug candidates to hydrocephalus patients.

The prevention of posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus (PHH) may be on the horizon. At Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Dr. Jerold Chun and Dr. Yun Yung (HA Mentored Young Investigator, 2010) are now testing drugs that target a molecular pathway involved in the development of PHH. By blocking the activity of a specific compound found in blood, Dr. Chun and Dr. Yung hope to stop the downstream effects of a brain bleed and prevent PHH. The goal is to develop a drug intervention that can be administered to any patient who has a brain bleed in order to prevent the development of hydrocephalus. The HA MYI Award provided Dr. Yung with the initial funding for this project. Dr. Chung and Dr. Yung’s research went on to be funded by a large National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant. This award through the PRMRP will allow the team to continue their groundbreaking work.

Research and Advocacy Wins

Funding of these two scientists reflects the success the Hydrocephalus Association has had with both its Research and Advocacy Initiatives. HA’s Initial funding of both of these projects supported the collection of critical preliminary data needed to pursue larger grants through government funding mechanisms like NIH and DoD. DoD dollars were not available to our scientific community until December 19, 2014, when President Obama signed into law H.R. 83, the Omnibus and Continuing Resolution Appropriations Act of 2015, which, for the first time, made hydrocephalus a condition eligible to receive funding through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. The inclusion of hydrocephalus on the list of eligible conditions was a direct result of a small dedicated group of Hydrocephalus Association advocates working in conjunction with our allies on Capitol Hill.

Established in 1999, the PRMRP is committed to funding research with the potential to profoundly impact the development and implementation of medical devices, drugs, and clinical practice guidelines that will enhance the precision and efficacy of diagnosis and treatment across the spectrum of health care settings. The groundbreaking research of both Dr. Blazer-Yost and Dr. Chun could lead to significant changes in treatment and outcome for patients that are born with hydrocephalus or develop hydrocephalus as the result of a brain bleed. More significant, while these studies are still in their early phases, the prevention of hydrocephalus may now be a realistic expectation.

We encourage you to learn more about our Research Initiative as well as our Advocacy program. If you are interested in becoming an advocate for hydrocephalus, please visit the Hydrocephalus Action Network page. More information about the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program is available on their website: http://cdmrp.army.mil.

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