November 1, 2016

Purdue team receives $10 million SPARC grant

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University is leading a $10 million study to better understand the stomach’s neural circuitry and whether bioelectronics medicine can aid conditions such as diabetes or obesity.

The grant is from the National Institutes of Health’s SPARC - Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions - program. SPARC research projects focus on the neural pathways to various organs including the spleen, heart, lung and pancreas to develop and evaluate minimally invasive neuromodulation therapies.

“Pharmaceutical therapies for chronic conditions can have side effects, and the NIH has coined a new term ‘electroceuticals’ as research programs explore localized technologies to address chronic conditions,” said Terry Powley, a distinguished professor of psychological sciences and principal investigator. Powley is an expert in neural circuit analyses who studies the role of the central nervous system in eating and metabolism.

The “Mapping Stomach Autonomic Circuitry and Function for Neuromodulation of Gastric Disorders” project will map and study the stomach’s neural system to better develop electronic stimulation therapies.

The study’s co-principal investigator is Pedro Irazoqui, associate head and professor of biomedical engineering, who specializes in research into miniature biological implants and neural prosthetic devices.

“This NIH SPARC project will enable a new generation of electroceutical therapies by funding the combination of cutting edge engineering approaches from labs like professors Rickus, Robinson, Liu and mine, with the anatomical and physiological insights of a preeminent neuroscientist like professor Powley,” Irazoqui said.

The other members of the research team are John Furness, the University of Melbourne; Walter Voit, University of Texas at Dallas; and Thomas Nowak, Indiana University, as well as the following scientists from Purdue: Zhongming Liu, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering; Robert Phillips, research associate professor in psychological sciences; Bartlomiej Rajwa, research assistant professor in Bindley Bioscience Center; Jenna Rickus, professor of agricultural and biological engineering; Joseph Robinson, professor of cytomics in the College of Veterinary Medicine; and Matthew Ward, research assistant professor in biomedical engineering.

Powley, who has been at Purdue since 1980, is a member of the Purdue Institute of Integrative Neuroscience and PULSe - the Purdue University Interdisciplinary Life Science graduate program. He is based in the College of Health and Human Sciences. In 2007, Powley received a $10 million Method to Extend Research in Time award from the National Institutes of Health.

In 2015, Irazoqui, director of the Center for Implantable Devices, received a $5.4 million interdisciplinary research project from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a wireless implantable device for treating conditions resulting from the body’s inflammatory response. 

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

Source: Terry Powley,

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