Bioengineering Professor Recognized for Stroke Recovery Research
March 25, 2015
Dr. Seth Hays, an assistant professor of bioengineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, received the Robert G. Siekert New Investigator in Stroke Award from the American Stroke Association.
UT Dallas’ Dr. Seth Hays was honored by the American Heart Association with the Robert G. Siekert New Investigator in Stroke Award recently at the 2015 International Stroke Conference in Nashville, Tenn.
The award, which is presented each year to one outstanding young scientist, encourages new investigators to undertake or continue stroke-related research.
“It is an honor to be recognized by the American Heart Association, an organization with a long tradition of supporting excellent research,” said Hays, an assistant professor of bioengineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
Hays’ recent research focuses on developing vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) to improve recovery of motor function after stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury, and explaining in detail the mechanisms engaged by VNS to support functional recovery.
VNS is an FDA-approved method for treating various illnesses, such as depression and epilepsy. It involves sending a mild electric pulse through the vagus nerve, which relays information about the state of the body to the brain. Researchers at UT Dallas are studying a novel implementation of VNS to treat neurological disorders.
“Dr. Hays is a great example of how UT Dallas will become a top-tier university and develop a pre-eminent bioengineering program.”
The association recognized Hays for his paper “Vagus Nerve Stimulation Enhances Neuroplasticity and Forelimb Recovery after Stroke in Aged Rats.” The study, which Hays presented at the conference on Feb. 12, concludes that VNS paired with rehabilitation enhances neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to change — and functional recovery in post-stroke, aged rats.
“This research project provides additional evidence supporting the ability of VNS to improve recovery after stroke,” he said. “We are now exploring this in greater detail in order to develop this powerful potential therapy.”
Hays received his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 2007. In 2012, he completed his PhD in neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Rennaker, director of the center and department head of bioengineering, said Hays excelled as a researcher and a colleague during his two years as a fellow, playing a primary role in writing a successful National Institutes of Health research project grant to fund stroke research.
“Dr. Hays is a great example of how UT Dallas will become a top-tier university and develop a pre-eminent bioengineering program,” Rennaker said.