Millions of people worldwide suffer from hemorrhagic strokes and traumatic brain injuries that cause long-term disabilities and often death. As Dr. Zhang and his team explore the causes of these events, they hope to discover lifesaving new treatments and prevention strategies.

Beyond damage to brain cells, these events affect supporting tissues and cells in nearby blood vessels. Impact or pressure from bleeding causes mechanical injury, while blood components released by injured vessels and a chain of inflammatory reactions cause chemical changes. The destructive cycle escalates as vessels distended from a loss of muscle cell contraction allow blood to leak between cells and between the brain and membrane.

Dr. Zhang and his team propose that because these events share similar characteristics, a common intervention may be possible.

Preliminary lab testing suggests that osteopontin — a human protein delivered by nasal spray to treat other conditions — aids in wound healing, prevents cell death, reduces swelling and improves neurological function in stroke patients. This is its first use for brain hemorrhage treatment.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded a $6 million program project grant to Dr. Zhang and his team to establish a Center for Brain Hemorrhage Research. This is a large, highly competitive, prestigious grant to support a group of scientists at a respected university studying a single theme and the second for Loma Linda University Health. The first was awarded to Lawrence Longo, MD, to start the Center for Perinatal Biology. Dr. Zhang is conducting additional research funded by grants from the NIH, Department of Defense, American Heart Association and other foundations.