College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

CBE professor and chair awarded $4 million grant for nerve repair research

Surya MallapragadaSurya Mallapragada, professor and chair of chemical and biological engineering, has received a research award from the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command for over $4 million. The award will support the project “Integrated Neuroprotective and Neuroregenerative Strategies,” which investigates nerve damage and brain injury recovery.

Throughout the course of the research, she will be collaborating with researchers in several different departments on Iowa State’s campus, including Anumantha Kanthasamy from biomedical sciences; Donald Sakaguchi from genetics development and cell biology; Balaji Narasimhan from chemical and biological engineering; and Michael Wannemuehler from veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine, as well as partners at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

The team’s work will focus on two areas: peripheral nerve damage and traumatic brain injury. The research aims to develop methods to encourage the body to heal itself in the most natural manner possible with the help of biomaterials and biodegradable polymers; bioactive molecules; and the patients’ own stem cells.

In the case of peripheral nerve damage, the team plans to bridge gaps in severed nerves with biomaterials and stem cells. Within the other aspect of the research that looks into traumatic brain injury, the team plans to overcome the blood-brain barrier for drug delivery through use of biomaterial nanoparticles and careful recruitment of the body’s immune system. Kanthasamy’s work on Parkinson’s disease may shed some light on patients with traumatic brain injuries who share similar neurological problems as those with Parkinson’s.

Mallapragada and the team are currently preparing to launch this extensive research project and are beginning experiments right now.