Community Foundation for Brevard to Fund Florida Tech Medical Research

Winning Proposals on Alzheimer’s Screening, Dementia Therapy

MELBOURNE, FLA. — The Community Foundation for Brevard awarded two Florida Institute of Technology researchers a total of $52,000 under its Medical Research Grant to Find Cause and/or Cure for Alzheimer’s, Cancer, and Other Pervasive Diseases initiative. The competitive program is funded from the Kenneth R. Finken and Dorothy Hallam Finken Endowment Fund based at the Community Foundation.

Kunal Mitra, a professor of biomedical engineering, received a $26,000 grant to further his research into a novel way to screen for Alzheimer’s disease, a process that now is often costly, time consuming and invasive.

He is studying the use of a near-infrared spectroscopy system to monitor changes in oxygen supply to brain tissue in the aging population. In conjunction with blood tests for analyzing the blood plasma to target various internally produced substances due to metabolism, a new inexpensive platform will be developed for early diagnosis of the disease. This combination of cerebrovascular, cognitive, hematological and metabolic assessments has not been previously tested and will be addressed through this collaborative research.

As the population ages, there will be a growing need for effective therapies to improve the quality of life of those who suffer from dementia. That’s where Chris Bashur’s research comes in. Funded with a $26,000 grant, Bashur, an associate professor in biomedical engineering, and his collaborators will work to develop a unique strategy that involves releasing a gaseous signaling molecule found naturally in the body – carbon monoxide – through molecules enclosed within ultrasound-sensitive microbubbles. While carbon monoxide has a reputation as a dangerous gas, it can provide therapeutic benefits at appropriate doses. This study will develop delivery methods that can provide controlled doses with the goal to establish a therapy for those with vascular cognitive impairment and dementia.

The cognitive impairment from this disease is caused by damage to the cells that line the small blood vessels in the brain, and the goal of delivering carbon monoxide is to help this cell layer recover and restore the blood-brain barrier.

“The Finken family legacy represents hope for millions of people who suffer from pervasive diseases,” said Theresa Grimison, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Brevard. “We are proud of our ongoing partnership and the novel research happening at Florida Tech.”

Kenneth Finken was a graduate of Columbia University and held four patents. He retired from the Government Electronic Systems division of Harris Corporation.

Over the last 12 years, Florida Tech researchers have been awarded 19 individual medical research grants via the Community Foundation that have a combined value of nearly $560,000.


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