The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging has awarded Duke Anesthesiology’s Niccolò Terrando, BSc (hons), DIC, PhD, a two-year, $436,027 exploratory/developmental research grant (R21) for his project, titled “Bioelectronic Rescue of Cognitive Impairment After Surgery.”
Millions of individuals in the United States undergo surgery every year for medically necessary conditions and are at risk for developing cognitive impairments, also referred to as perioperative neurocognitive disorders (PND) that include delirium and longer-lasting postoperative cognitive dysfunction. Although risk factors, including age, have been identified, the mechanisms underlying surgical effects on cognitive outcomes are unknown, creating an urgent need to characterize the neural mechanisms that lead to memory dysfunction after surgery and to develop therapeutic strategies against this potentially devastating complication.
This award from the National Institute on Aging offers further study toward developing a novel approach to modulate postoperative brain inflammation and possibly prevent PND using bioelectronic medicine, a growing scientific field that fosters expertise from neuroimmunology, bioengineering, and cell biology to implement nerve stimulating technologies to better regulate pathological processes and treat different conditions. The specific objective for this project is to develop a novel, minimally invasive approach, to electrically stimulate the vagus nerve, and regulate neuro-immune processes disrupted after surgery.
The study is a multidisciplinary effort initially supported by a Research Incubator Award from the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and includes co-investigators Drs. Warren Grill (Duke Biomedical Engineering), Christina Williams (Duke Psychology and Neuroscience) and William Wetsel (Duke Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences).
“We expect our project to have both fundamental and translational impact,” says Dr. Terrando, associate professor in anesthesiology. “From a basic science perspective, it will clarify the fundamental relationship between inflammation, neurogenesis and cholinergic function in a clinically-relevant model of orthopedic surgery. From a translational perspective, this work will offer a novel therapeutic approach to treat PND without directly disrupting the innate immune response to surgery.”
Dr. Terrando currently serves as director of the Neuroinflammation and Cognitive Outcomes Laboratory and is the associate editor for the Springer Nature journal, Bioelectronic Medicine (Dr. Kevin Tracey serves as editor-in-chief).