Duke Team Receives Research Incubator Award

The Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) has awarded a 2016 DIG receipient, Niccolo Terrando, PhD, and his team of five co-investigators, a $75,000 grant for their project titled, “Bioelectronic Medicine and Cholinergic Regulation of Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction.”

Millions of individuals in the U.S. undergo surgery every year for medically necessary conditions and are at risk for developing memory impairments, including postoperative delirium and long-lasting postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD). Although risk factors, including age, have been identified, the mechanisms underlying surgical effects on cognitive outcomes are unknown. Thus, there is an urgent need to characterize the mechanisms  that lead to memory dysfunction after surgery and to develop safe and effective therapeutic strategies against this potentially devastating complication. The DIBS 2016-2017 Research Incubator Award will explore the potential for bioelectronic medicine as a novel intervention to prevent POCD. Using a clinically-relevant model of orthopedic surgery in mice, the Duke team linked surgical procedures to the development of inflammation in brain regions that are responsible for overall memory function. Previous work revealed that pharmacological activation of a cholinergic anti-inflammatory reflex can mitigate neuroinflammation and POCD in mice.

The project brings together a multidisciplinary group of investigators with diverse, unique, and complementary expertise from three schools within Duke University (School of Medicine, Pratt School of Engineering, and Arts & Sciences), representing four departments (Anesthesiology, Cell Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Psychology and Neuroscience ). Co-investigators include Professor Warren Grill, Professor Christina Williams, Associate Professor Chay Kuo, Assistant Professor Miles Berger and Associate Professor Staci Bilbo. This is set to provide both basic and translational knowledge in the field of perioperative care: from a basic science perspective, it will explore the fundamental relationship between inflammation, cholinergic function, and memory using a clinically relevant model of peripheral surgical trauma; from a translational perspective, this work will provide a novel therapeutic approach to treat POCD without directly disrupting the innate immune responses to trauma.