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Upstate researcher is awarded $1.5 million NIH grant to develop novel approach to preventing, treating sepsis

Upstate Medical University associate professor Juntao Luo, PhD, has been awarded a four-year $1.5 million National Institutes of Health R01 research grant to continue studying a novel technique of removing toxins and other dangerous molecules from the blood to prevent and treat dangerous sepsis.

The title of Luo’s project is “An innovative hemoperfusion nanotrap for sepsis treatment.” His lab is developing a “highly efficient nanotrap for hemoperfusion therapy to remove the range of triggers and mediators of sepsis.” Sepsis occurs when the body’s response to an infection triggers a dangerous systemic inflammation, which can lead to organ failure, and in severe cases death. Removing those triggers and mediators from the blood can lower the risk of developing sepsis.

The World Health Organization estimates that sepsis affects more than 30 million people a year around the world, and kills more than 250,000 people in the United States annually.

“Some patients will experience that hyper inflammation,” Luo said. “We can use this technique to target those molecules and save the life of the patient. (Sepsis is) the primary cause of death in the ICU. The clinical impact could be very broad.”

Luo, who has worked at Upstate for seven years, has been working on this project for about two years. The NIH grant will propel his research one step closer to a clinical translation, he said. Luo is collaborating with Upstate professors Guirong Wang, PhD, and Gary F. Nieman, MS, on this project. He is hoping to collaborate with additional Upstate departments to initiate clinical trials in the future.

“With this money we can further test our concept,” Luo said. “We are excited and also confident about the importance of our data.”

According to the project’s abstract, “these studies will pave the way to translate this innovative HP nanotrap technique into the clinic to improve the survival of patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. It can also be used to treat patients with high risk of cytokine storm, e.g. cardiac surgery, burn, trauma and CAR-T cancer immunotherapy.”

Luo’s research areas also include nanomedicine, drug delivery, cancer imaging and cancer treatment, among others. This is his fourth NIH grant.

Caption: Juntao Luo, PhD, will use the $1.5 million NIH grant to study a novel technique of removing toxins and other dangerous molecules from the blood to prevent and treat dangerous sepsis.

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