Research UPDATE: Investigating Alternative Treatment Options for Hydrocephalus

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Dr. Sonia Podvin

Dr. Sonia Podvin

The Hydrocephalus Association strives to support research which will help advance diagnosis, treatment and outcomes of patients with hydrocephalus. As of 2011, we have raised 2 million dollars for research. But where does that money go? One place is our Mentored Young Investigator (MYI) grant program, through which we aim to fund and encourage young researchers in the field of hydrocephalus. Since 2009, we have funded seven MYI’s. The work our MYI’s have conducted is both substantive and insightful, and HA wants to take the opportunity to showcase their fantastic contributions to hydrocephalus research. We begin with Sonia Podvin, Ph.D, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California San Diego, who was one of two recipients of the Hydrocephalus Association 2011 Mentored Young Investigator Award.

Dr. Podvin’s research as a molecular pharmacologist aims to develop safe, specific drugs to treat hydrocephalus. Her study, Augurin is a novel choroid plexus-derived peptide hormone that regulates CSF, investigates the function of the peptide hormone augurin. Augurin is an anti-inflammatory hormone that circulates in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and may be able to control brain hydrodynamics. There are initial findings that suggest the loss of augurin contributes to CSF fluid dysfunction. Her research has two specific aims (1) to develop an augurin animal genetic model in mice and (2) to identify the unknown cell surface receptor of augurin. The ultimate aim, if the hypothesis is correct, is to pharmacologically manipulate augurin to treat hydrocephalus. A challenge in Dr. Podvin’s specific research area is drug delivery to the brain. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) can prevent drugs from reaching the target cells. Developing a drug which can cross the BBB and not have undesirable side effects is important.

Dr. Podvin was very excited to receive the MYI award in 2011. Her career goal is to become a hydrocephalus researcher. The hydrocephalus research world is one of collaboration, and the MYI grant has allowed her to connect with other hydro researchers. She says, “One of the most wonderful things about working in the hydro field is the drive to stick together and to share stories and ideas so that we can find the most effective research avenues to improve patients’ lives.” Dr. Podvin believes that facilitating the open lines of communication between patients, families, clinicians and basic science researchers is key to advancing hydrocephalus research efforts.,

Since receiving the MYI award, Dr. Podvin has been published twice: “Epidermal Growth Factor Targeting of Bacteriophage to the Choroid Plexus for Gene Delivery to the Central Nervous System via Cerebrospinal Fluid” in Brain Research and “Ecrg4 expression and its product Augurin in the Choroid Plexus: Impact on Fetal Brain Development, Cerebrospinal Fluid Homeostasis and Neuroprogenitor Cell Response to CNS Injury” in Fluids and Barriers of the CNS.

Mentored Young Investigator Award (MYI) program

The MYI Award program began in 2009 with the dual purpose of funding promising research relevant to hydrocephalus while fostering the development of young researchers. The award helps insure that qualified young scientists enter the field of hydrocephalus research and receive research training and experience under the guidance of highly trained, well-respected researchers who have demonstrated success in their field of research. At the completion of the grant period, our goal is that these young scientists become high-caliber, productive, independent researchers with an enduring focus on research relevant to hydrocephalus. Ultimately, it is hoped that this support will help these young scientists to make successful applications for an NIH K or R award to continue their research in hydrocephalus, thereby enriching the hydrocephalus research landscape.

 

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