Dr. Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu receives New Frontiers in Research Fund Exploration Grant to investigate endothelial glycocalyx repair

Dr. Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu

Congratulations to Dr. Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu, one of seven UBC project leads supported by a New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) 2020 Exploration Grant! Dr. Kizhakkedathu’s project will aim to develop an effective therapeutic approach to rapidly repair the endothelial glycocalyx, in order to reverse endothelial dysfunction and pathogenesis in inflammatory diseases.

The NFRF program, a federal research funding initiative, mobilizes cutting-edge interdisciplinary, international, and transformative research that strengthens Canadian innovation and benefits Canadians. The fund’s Exploration stream specifically targets interdisciplinary, high-risk, high-reward research that defies current models, bridges disciplines in novel ways, or tackles fundamental problems from new perspectives. The stream’s design recognizes that interdisciplinary research is often risky, but worthwhile given the potential for significant groundbreaking impact. All funded teams must demonstrate commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in the research environment.

Out of 117 innovative projects funded by the Government of Canada through the NFRF 2020 Exploration Stream, the seven projects led by UBC researchers were awarded a combined $1.75m.

The NFRF is under the strategic direction of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee and is managed as a tri-agency program by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), on behalf of Canada’s three research granting agencies—the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and SSHRC.


Endothelial glycocalyx repair and rebuild as a novel treatment for inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases
Principal Investigator: Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu (Pathology)
Co-Principal Investigator: Jonathan Choy (SFU)
Co-applicants: Caigan Du (Urologic Sciences); Christopher Nguan (Urologic Sciences); Stephen Withers (Chemistry)
Amount: $250,000

Inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases include cardiovascular diseases (myocardial infraction, stroke, thrombosis), sepsis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, kidney diseases and immune-rejection of transplants. Collectively, these affect 1 in 3 Canadians and cost Canadian economy >$100 billion/year. That challenge emphasizes the need for improved prevention and treatment methods. In this project, we are addressing this unmet clinical need by developing an effective therapeutic approach that can be applied systemically to rapidly repair the endothelial glycocalyx to reverse endothelial dysfunction and pathogenesis in these inflammatory diseases.

The endothelium lies at the interface between the circulating blood and tissues of all organs and glycocalyx is the most prominent structure on the endothelium that serves as a protective shield. Endothelial dysfunction and glycocalyx shedding perpetuate the inflammation and recruitment of immune cells leading to organ damage. Rapidly rebuilding the damage glycocalyx in vivo is anticipated to prevent activation of the immune system and preserve organ homeostasis. Thus, we hypothesize that engineering and rapidly rebuilding of vascular endothelial glycocalyx using immunomodulating polymer conjugates can prevent inflammation and immune-mediated damage of organs. Localizing molecules onto endothelium and repair the damaged glycocalyx is an enormous challenge but will open a new era in the treatment.


A version of this story was originally posted on the UBC Research + Innovation website, and was republished with minor revisions.