As someone who had no prior exposure to biomedical engineering, this week’s chalk talks were especially enlightening. Out of the engineering related talks, Neica’s talk on developing drugs for ischemic strokes stood out to me because the methods used to test the drugs seemed to be similar to the methods used in the neurobiology labs that I knew of.
Ischemic strokes are strokes caused by blood clots forming in the capillaries of the brain, and leads to significant brain damage due to excitotoxic glutamate release. The brain’s natural defenses causes further damage; microglia leads to increased inflammation, meanwhile astrocytes causes scarring. An ideal treatment needs to stops these mechanisms in the affected area, and bring the neural progenitor cells close to the damaged site of the brain for regeneration. The Segura lab utilizes hydrogels to treat ischemic strokes, and thereby increasing the treatment efficacy from the current 5%. The concoction of hydrogels contain MAP gel and the CLUVENA. The Map gel recruits the neural progenitor cells. while the CLUVENA suspends the microglia and astrocytes in the damaged site. The design of the experiment, which aims to test the efficacy of the hydrogels, reminds me of the CRE-loxP system in neurobiology labs, where reactivating a gene in the knockout animal rescues the animal brain perturbation. Both methods need to damage the brain function in order to testify whether the treatment works or if the gene has a role in behavior, but they both ultimately links back to future clinical applications so that it could help people with abnormal neurological function.