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Senator Lloyd and B.A. Bentsen Center for Stroke Research Opens

Published: March 07, 2009 by By Cynthia Johnson, Ph.D., Institutional Advancement

Surrounded by photographs of the late American statesman Lloyd M. Bentsen, five researchers who are breaking new ground in stroke prevention, diagnosis and treatment presented their work at a reception to celebrate the opening of the Senator Lloyd and B.A. Bentsen Center for Stroke Research Jan. 22 at The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases (IMM).

Myriam Fornage, Ph.D., associate professor of Human Genetics at the IMM, presented her team’s achievement in identifying a gene that predisposes human beings to stroke, research that will be the foundation for studies leading to stroke prevention.

The opening of the Senator Lloyd and B.A. Bentsen Center for Stroke Research Jan. 22 at The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases (IMM).

Cheng Chi Lee, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the UT Medical School at Houston, has discovered a natural molecule that slows the metabolic rate and allows the body to cool. It is the basis for critical intervention that protects cells from damage in stroke and heart attack victims.

Professor and director of Stem Cell Research Paul Simmons, Ph.D., an international leader in the field, described his work in applying these cells in a range of therapeutic settings, including the treatment of inflammation and degeneration of brain tissue in stroke.

Two of the scientists are working with highly sensitive new imaging technology. Eva Sevick, Ph.D., professor and Cullen Chair and director of Molecular Imaging, and her team have developed a technique that uses tissue-penetrating near-infrared light for rapid diagnosis of the presence of disease markers, a vital tool in diagnosing patients in emergency conditions.

Work in the laboratory of Ananth Annapragada, Ph.D., associate professor in the UT School of Health Information Sciences, focuses on novel nanoparticle technologies for imaging and drug delivery. The development of new contrast agents makes it possible now to create ultrahigh- resolution CT and MRI images of the cranial vascular system. These images of the brain’s vasculature, which has never been seen with such clarity, are particularly valuable in the diagnosis of stroke as well as being relevant to work in other disorders of the central nervous system.

The event also honored the life of Senator Bentsen and his family’s commitment to advancing stroke research. Acknowledging the contribution of the Bentsen family, Larry Kaiser, M.D., president of the university, observed,“There is not one corner of public service this family has not occupied. Now, this man, who walked so tall and cast such a long shadow, will be able to continue to serve people through the formation of the Stroke Center, to help others walk tall again.”

The Bentsen Center was launched with a generous gift from the Bentsens and supported by a host of other contributions from across the country and around the world.

Senator Bentsen, a decorated war hero and successful businessman whose family has deep roots in South Texas, had a long career in public service. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, was the Democratic candidate for Vice President in 1988, and served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton. He suffered two debilitating strokes and spent the last eight years of his life in a wheelchair.

As he and Mrs. Bentsen dealt with the effects of stroke, the concept of a center for stroke research was developed. Gazing at a poster-sized reproduction of a wedding picture in the reception hall, Mrs. Bentsen commented, “I am just overwhelmed at the photos in this room of our life together. I am thrilled when I think of what we can do to help further this research; but I am just sick at heart that my husband isn’t here to see this magnificent beginning for the Stroke Center. It would have meant everything to him.”