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TGen, Collaborators Awarded NIH Grant to Validate RNA Biomarkers of Brain Injury

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute $2.8 million in grant funding over the next three years to continue an effort to identify extracellular RNAs as biomarkers for the severity of hemorrhagic stroke and risk of subsequent injury.

The grant was issued under the NIH's Extracellular RNA Communication program, which was established in 2012 to support research around the release, transport, uptake, and regulatory role of extracellular RNA molecules such as microRNAs and other non-coding RNAs.

Investigators from Phoenix Children's Hospital and the Barrow Neurological Institute are collaborating with TGen on the project.

"Because exRNAs are released from all tissues in the body, including the brain, they make an ideal candidate as a biomarker to help doctors in the evaluation and treatment of patients with brain injury," TGen's Kendall Van Keuren-Jensen, a co-principal investigator on the grant, said in a statement. "Ultimately, this research could lead to the development of new treatments and improved outcomes in hemorrhagic stroke patients."

The research, which focuses on two types of hemorrhagic events: aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (ASH) and pediatric intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH), extends work begun in 2013 in which cerebrospinal fluid and plasma from ASH and IVH patients underwent RNA sequencing in order to discover potential markers that can predict the onset of vasospasm and the severity of delayed neurological defects.

With the new funding, the investigators aim to run an additional round of biomarker discovery in additional patient samples, then validate the top candidates.

"In the best-case scenario, these markers can be coupled with an improved clinical management of the disease, too," Matt Huentelman, a TGen researcher and co-principal investigator on the grant, added in the statement.