Inventor of the Week Archive
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Jewell L. Osterholm, M.D., has developed a pioneering treatment for stroke and
other central nervous disorders, based on the principle that brain food is relatively
simple: mainly oxygen, glucose and amino acids.
Dr. Osterholm is a professor of neurosurgery and former chairman of the neurosurgery
department at Thomas Jefferson University
in Philadelphia. He realized, as did many other researchers, that when a patient
has a stroke, blood flow to the brain is blocked, usually by a clot in a blood
vessel, and brain tissue generally dies from the resulting lack of oxygen and
other nutrients that occurs, causing irreparable damage or death. However, if
it were possible somehow to get oxygen and nutrients to the brain through some
sort of a "back door" while an event like this were occurring, some stroke damage
could be prevented. During the precious extra time the brain would gain from
such a treatment, the body could possibly find a way to break up a clot or find
its own new way to route blood to the brain.
Dr. Osterholm, whose research is focused on spinal cord injury and stroke,
began studying alternative methods of treating central nervous disorders in
the 1960s, and he began examining the use of fluorochemical emulsions as a blood
substitute in the late 1970s. After many years of research, he and a team of
researchers developed a process involving drilling a hole in the skull and delivering
oxygen, glucose and amino acids through the brain using synthetic spinal fluid.
In 2001, doctors at Jefferson treated its first patient with the new approach.
Though the treatment is still being tested for safety, the belief is that it
could revolutionize cerebral re-oxygenization, crucial to reducing damage to
the brain during a stroke.
In 1998, along with colleagues Rodney Bell and Glenn Frazer, Dr. Osterholm
formed Neuron Therapeutics to
fund trials and continue work on similar treatments. He now serves on a board
member and consultant for Neuron Therapeutics and has established a research
program oriented toward cerebral re-oxygenation during stroke. He also conducts
a weekly seminar for residents during which the neurosurgery is discussed and
practical approaches to daily problems are suggested.
After earning his medical degree in 1957 from Washington
University in St. Louis, Dr. Osterholm went on to serve in a number of teaching
and surgical positions, mostly in or near Philadelphia. He was named inventor
of the year in 1984 by the Intellectual Property
Owners association and is a member of more than twenty professional medical