Case Western Reserve School of Medicine Awarded $4.7M Contract from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Contract supports the development of a new class of drugs that will help enhance soldiers’ performance at high altitude

News Release: Friday, July 30, 2010

CLEVELAND - Jonathan Stamler, MD, Director of the Institute for Transformative Molecular Medicine and the Robert S. and Sylvia K. Reitman Family Foundation Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Innovation at the Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Harrington-McLaughlin Heart & Vascular Institute, has recently received a $4.7 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to fund the development of a new class of drugs that will selectively dilate blood cells under hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the body’s tissues) and thereby enhance soldiers’ performance at high altitude.

“Our blood carries less oxygen at high altitudes,” said Dr. Stamler. “And there is not much we can do about it. But if we could improve blood flow in tissues we could deliver more oxygen regardless of how much oxygen the blood carries.”

Development of any method to enhance tissue oxygenation at high altitudes must consider the distinction between blood O2 content (how much oxygen the blood carries) and red blood cell (RBC) O2 delivery (primarily a function of blood flow). Oxygen delivery is controlled by a gas called nitric oxide, which is released from RBCs under hypoxia. Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels and thereby improves blood flow.

It’s anticipated that the grant will generate new physiologic information on high-altitude adaption and new therapeutic interventions to treat patients suffering from conditions where oxygen delivery is impaired, including heart failure, ischemic heart disease, stroke, sickle cell disease and diabetes.

The study will involve a transdisciplinary team including the department of anesthesia, the division of pulmonary medicine, and the Harrington-McLaughlin Cardiovascular Institute at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Case Western Reserve School of Medicine’s primary clinical affiliate.

About Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Founded in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is the largest medical research institution in Ohio and is among the nation's top medical schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine is recognized throughout the international medical community for outstanding achievements in teaching. The School's innovative and pioneering Western Reserve2 curriculum interweaves four themes--research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism--to prepare students for the practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing health care environment of the 21st century. Eleven Nobel Laureates have been affiliated with the school.

Annually, the School of Medicine trains more than 800 M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. students and ranks in the top 20 among U.S. research-oriented medical schools as designated by U.S. News &World Report "Guide to Graduate Education."

The School of Medicine's primary affiliate is University Hospitals Case Medical Center and is additionally affiliated with MetroHealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic, with which it established the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in 2002.