Saving the Brain: Research Leading to Better Stroke Care

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Each year, The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital recognizes an outstanding physician with the President’s Achievement Award for using donor funds to provide truly exceptional care. Recipients are paving the way with groundbreaking research that could transform patient care and further Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s reputation as a national leader in medicine.

This year, Jin-Moo Lee, MD, PhD, neurologist and co-director of The Barnes-Jewish and Washington University Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center, received the award for his donor-supported research on the influence of genetics on early outcome after stroke.

Neurologist Jin Moo-Lee, MD, PhD , is recognized for his exceptional patient care and his research.

Through research and process improvements at the Stroke Center, Dr. Lee and his colleagues are enhancing and transforming stroke care for these patients in St. Louis and beyond.

Finding One Gene's Role in Stroke Recovery

Dr. Lee was inspired to study the genetic component of strokes when he saw the advances being made in genomic medicine. Stroke care, he says, was behind in the field, and he saw an opportunity to have an impact on early recovery.

As the saying in the stroke field goes, “Time is brain.” The longer you wait to treat a stroke, the more brain tissue is damaged that can’t be recovered.

“The first 24 hours after the onset of a stroke is a highly unstable period of time,” Dr. Lee explains. “Patients can rapidly improve or they can rapidly deteriorate. The direction that they go has a major impact on their long-term outcome.”

With a pilot grant from the Foundation, Dr. Lee and his team conducted a study on 200 patients and found that one gene had a strong influence on neurological deterioration in this critical 24-hour period after a stroke.

By leveraging initial data, Dr. Lee was able to secure an additional $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to expand his study. His team hopes to recruit 5,000 patients from across the world. Ultimately, the study could identify genes that could be potential targets for drug development aiming to enhance early recovery or reduce early deterioration after stroke, Dr. Lee says. And it was made possible by support of Foundation donors.

Working Together to Improve Stroke Care

Beyond research, Dr. Lee and his colleagues are working to continuously improve stroke care at the Stroke Center. “I have been extremely fortunate to be working with a group of highly collaborative colleagues who have worked together to raise the bar in stroke care both regionally and nationally,” Dr. Lee says.

So far, the team has made several key achievements:

First Comprehensive Stroke Center in Missouri
Dr. Lee and his colleagues have made the Stroke Center the first in Missouri to be certified by the Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, recognizing the center’s unique and specialized resources and capabilities.
This Stroke Center has one of the fastest door-to-needle times in the U.S., an essential metric stroke centers use to measure the efficiency of the delivery of tPA, the clot-dissolving drug that can potentially reverse disability caused by stroke.

Extending Care Through the BJC Stroke Network
The team has also established the BJC Stroke Network, a group of more than 30 hospitals in the region that refer patients to the Stroke Center and uses telemedicine to give their patients access to the Stroke Center’s world-class physicians.

A Patient's Perspective

At The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s annual Exceptional Care Society Dinner, Jim Whaley introduced his physician, Jin-Moo Lee, MD, PhD, who was receiving the President’s Achievement Award.

Neurologist Jin Moo-Lee, MD, PhD, with his patient, Jim Whaley.

Jim praised Dr. Lee’s efforts to go above and beyond by guiding him into a study for a potential treatment for cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA), a neurological condition that impairs the function of blood vessels in the brain and can lead to brain bleeds (mini-strokes) and dementia. Though there is currently no cure, Washington University School of Medicine researchers are studying ways to diagnose the condition earlier and to develop therapeutic approaches to the disease.

“I was thoroughly impressed with Dr. Lee’s intelligence and his knowledge, but more important, his compassion, his interest in me and caring about me,” Jim says. “He was always there at every turn during this study, always checking on me to see how I was doing instead of having his assistant or anyone else do it. Barnes-Jewish has a real treasure in Dr. Lee.”

Jim continues: “There are those that seem to be doctors who are very intelligent but lack good bedside manner, and then those who have bedside manner but lack the expertise in their field of practice. But Dr. Lee has it all.”

To support improvements in stroke care, please make a gift to the Stroke Research Fund. Make a gift online or call 314-286-0600.

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