Texas A&M Study Finds New Pathway For Potential Glioblastoma Treatment

Story by Dorian Martin

Dr. Stephen Safe
Dr. Stephen Safe

A team led by Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) researcher Stephen Safe has discovered a new pathway that may help suppress the development of glioblastoma tumors.

The Texas A&M team’s research on the AH receptor, which controls expression of a diverse set of genes, essentially contradicts what was previously understood in glioblastoma research. The Texas A&M study was published in July in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

“We found the AH receptor—which was previously reported in the literature to be a pro-invasion gene—actually blocked invasion of glioblastoma cells,” said Safe, who is a Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP) in the CVM. “When we add certain AH receptor ligands (molecules that bonds to another molecule), we observed a potent inhibition of glioblastoma cell invasion. Basically, we’ve shown that it’s a good gene that can be targeted by drugs to make it even more effective.”

Glioblastomas, the most common and aggressive malignant brain tumor in adults, are comprised of tumor cells that rapidly reproduce and divide, which allow the tumor to grow into nearby normal brain tissue. Currently, these brain tumors are incurable; a patient’s median life expectancy after diagnosis is 11-15 months with standard treatments.

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, glioblastomas also form new blood vessels so they can maintain their rapid growth and may use connection fibers to spread to the opposite side of the brain.

These tumors are difficult to treat. Because glioblastomas often have finger-like tentacles that spread through the brain, they may not be completely removed through surgery. The tumor’s individual cells also respond differently to various therapies.

The Texas A&M study used patient glioblastoma cells in collaboration with colleagues at the Detroit Medical Center, as well as cells that were used in previously published glioblastoma studies. The researchers analyzed the AH receptor and several receptor ligands, including Kynurenine.

Previous published studies in the journal Nature found that the AH receptor and Kynurenine were involved in glioblastoma cells’ invasion of the brain.

However, the Texas A&M researchers refuted these findings by showing that AH receptors actually serve a protective function and do not promote the invasion of glioblastoma cells. In addition, when researchers added AH receptor ligands but Kynurenine was not active, the level of protection to the brain was enhanced.

These findings suggest that the AH receptor could be a target for the development of drugs to inhibit glioblastoma. The Texas A&M team is now studying the use of the AH receptor as a target for inhibiting glioblastoma and identifying compounds that bind to the AH receptor to provide additional protection to the brain.

“This study opens up a new way for developing potential clinical applications,” Safe said. “Whether this line of inquiry will be successful remains to be seen, but our work may offer hope for a disease which has such a poor prognosis.”

 

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Interim Director of CVM Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216

Texas A&M, Cornell Collaborate to Advance Education Research, Expand Pipeline for Underrepresented Students

Texas A&M and Cornell universities have joined forces to advance research on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in veterinary medical education and to expand the pipeline for underrepresented students in the field.

Funded by a $300,000 federal grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), researchers from both universities will work together to develop and study the impact of a comprehensive collection of competency-based educational resources on antimicrobial resistance to aid veterinary education programs throughout the United States.

The three-year grant will finance research focused on the development of multidisciplinary, problem-based lessons on antimicrobial resistance, the creation of an online platform to share educational resources with all veterinary colleges in the U.S., and expanding the pipeline for underrepresented student populations regarding career opportunities in food and agricultural sciences, veterinary medicine, and public health.

“Antimicrobial resistance poses an increasingly serious threat to global health, and veterinarians must be properly equipped to assume leadership roles in addressing this challenge,” said Dr. Kevin Cummings, principal investigator for Cornell University. “Crucial to the success of the AMR mitigation effort is the need to educate a wide variety of stakeholders about proper antimicrobial stewardship in production agriculture.”

Nicola Ritter, principal investigator for Texas A&M University and director of the Center for Educational Technologies (CET), housed in Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), will lead efforts to create the online platform and implement the outreach campaign. The CET will share the lessons created from this project with all U.S. veterinary colleges on an open, online platform.

As a part of the outreach campaign, the Texas A&M team also will share lessons on antimicrobial-resistance topics suitable for undergraduate audiences to four universities within the Texas A&M System that have significant under-represented student populations, including Prairie View A&M University, West Texas A&M University, Texas A&M Kingsville, and Tarleton State University.

“The undergraduate outreach campaign dovetails well with Texas A&M’s initiative to expand veterinary education, research, and outreach into several rural areas of Texas with under-represented student populations,” said Ritter, who is also an instructional assistant professor in the CVM’s Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS).

In addition to researchers from Cornell University, the multi-institutional project also includes researchers from Texas A&M’s CVM and College of Education & Human Development.

“These groups understand that it will take multidisciplinary teams to achieve the institution’s goals of transforming education within the Texas A&M University System and around the world,” Ritter said.

The team also links together other female leaders in the field of veterinary medicine education, including:

  • Dr. Virginia Fajt, clinical associate professor in the CVM’s Department of Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology (VTPP) and chair of the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) Antimicrobial Resistance Core Competencies Working Group
  • Dr. Sara Lawhon, associate professor in the CVM’s Department of Veterinary Pathobiology and principal investigator of a synergistic Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded research on antibiotic use, resistance, and stewardship in veterinary practice
  • Dr. Christine Budke, VIBS associate professor, veterinary epidemiologist, and instructor of public health
  • Dr. Meredyth Jones, associate professor in the CVM’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, food animal clinician, and instructor
  • Dr. Jacquline Stillisano, co-director of the Education Research Center in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture

By the end of the project, the team anticipates reaching 3,000 graduates per year from veterinary colleges across the United States and 1,000 undergraduates per year from programs related to animal science.

 

About Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences was established nearly a century ago to serve the needs of the Texas livestock industry.  Today it serves the largest livestock industry in the U.S., in addition to protecting the health of all animals, people, and the environment in the country’s second-most populous state. It is an innovative leader in veterinary medical education recognized for housing the Center for Educational Technologies and graduating top-quality, practice-ready veterinarians from Texas A&M University, which is the seventh largest university in the nation and a top 20 Tier One research institution.

About Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is recognized internationally as a leader in public health, biomedical research, animal medicine, and veterinary medical education. Ranked the No. 1 veterinary college in the nation by U.S. News & World Report consistently since 2000, the college’s strength is due to the strategic breadth and depth of its programs, to the expertise of its faculty, and to the achievements of its alumni. Cornell awarded the first veterinary degree in the United States to Daniel Salmon, best known for discovering Salmonella, and again made history in 1910 when it awarded the first American woman with a veterinary degree.

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; mpalsa@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)

CVM Professor Ramadoss Selected as Montague-Center for Teaching Excellence Scholar

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Jayanth Ramadoss, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology (VTPP) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), was named a 2017-18 Montague-Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) Scholar.

RamadossCropped

 

The award has been given annually since 1991 to one tenure-track faculty member from each college based on their ability and interest in teaching. Each awardee receives a $5,000 grant to further develop innovative teaching techniques that can be made available to other faculty members.

Dr. Jayanth Ramadoss
Dr. Jayanth Ramadoss

“Dr. Ramadoss joins a distinguished group of our college faculty members who have been recognized with this honor,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “We are proud of Dr. Ramadoss for his commitment and dedication to providing an excellent learning environment for students. This award highlights his excellence in teaching, as well as his engaging and dynamic teaching methods. We are proud that he is part of our illustrious team.”

With the money received from the Montague-CTE Scholar program, Ramadoss plans to positively impact undergraduate education by utilizing state-of-the-art teaching approaches and engaging students in the classroom using real-life scenarios that foster problem solving. Additionally, he wants to provide personalized, hands-on research training to undergraduate students and diversify the undergraduate talent pool in maternal, fetal, and infant health research.

“Dr. Ramadoss has developed, what I believe, is a remarkable gift—the ability to inspire students to get involved in science by understanding and appreciating it,” said Larry Suva, Ph.D., VTPP department head. “He is a ‘lead by example’ model for his students and is driven by his passion for education and science. The CVM is fortunate to have such a gifted young academician on our faculty.”

Ramadoss joined the CVM faculty in 2015 and teaches physiology for bioengineers. His student evaluation average is an impressive 4.96 out of 5, and he has been selected for other teaching awards, such as the 2016 Juan Carlos Robles Emanuelli Teaching Award.

Ramadoss’ passion for science and teaching inspires and motivates his students to show up to class, learn something new, and make an impact. As a Montague-CTE Scholar, Ramadoss will be able to further provide his students with educational enrichment.

“Dr. Ramadoss is the ‘real deal,’ an academic with an impressive educational commitment, coupled with a dedication to serve and help everyone,” Suva said. “These qualities are fundamental to why Dr. Ramadoss continues to be a rising star in our department, college, and university.”

The Montague-CTE Scholars awards are named in honor of Kenneth Montague ’37, a distinguished alumnus and outstanding trustee of the Texas A&M Foundation.

International Programs at the CVM

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Students studying abroad in Costa Rica (Photo by Dr. Don Brightsmith)

Destiny Mullens’ favorite question to ask during her international experience in Europe was, “How many languages do you speak?” She discovered that most people with whom she talked spoke three languages, although one person spoke seven. Mullens, a senior biomedical sciences (BIMS) major, participated in a spring 2015 study abroad program in Germany, where she had both an academic and cultural learning experience.

Mullens is just one of the many students whose trip was made possible by a stipend from the International Programs Advisory Committee (IPAC), housed in and composed of faculty from Texas A&M; University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).  Mullens’ experience is an example of how globalized the CVM is becoming. Her experience was possible in part due to the work of CVM’s International Programs, the mission of which is to help students and faculty to become global citizens by supporting a variety of activities including research collaborations and study abroad opportunities. Mullens’ experience was also supported by several scholarships, including the Dr. Anne Marie Emshoff ’90, DVM ’94 Scholarship from BIMS.

Over 80 percent of the $85,000 the IPAC provides annually for international opportunities goes to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at the CVM as travel stipends. Students must apply for IPAC travel stipends to receive funding. They may use IPAC funding for two types of international experiences: faculty-led study abroad programs and independent study abroad programs the students can develop on their own with CVM approval.

However, IPAC’s efforts go beyond helping students study abroad. The committee also helps faculty develop study abroad programs and conduct international research. “It assists with providing funds if you want to establish international research partnerships or develop new study abroad opportunities,” said Dr. Christine Budke, IPAC member and associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS).

International Learning Opportunities for Students

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Students studying in the food safety course at the European Food Safety Authority in Parma, Italy (Photo by Anna Pennacchi)

The CVM faculty members promote international experiences for students because they understand the value of international work. “When students go abroad, they gain culture awareness,” said Dr. Maria “Loles” Esteve-Gassent, assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB), who has organized exchange programs between the CVM and Spain. “The world is a big place, both a big and a small place. There is a personal change. Some of the barriers are gone. Students aren’t afraid of new things, of change.”

 

 

“Transformative” was the word Dr. Jeremy Wasser, associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology (VTPP), who leads study abroad trips to Germany, uses to describe students’ international experiences. He said his goal “is to bring these students back utterly changed for good, forever.” Wasser noted the 21st century is increasingly global and students need to be comfortable working with individuals from various cultures and countries.

Dr. Elizabeth Crouch, the assistant dean for undergraduate education at the CVM, said, international experiences add depth to students’ undergraduate careers. Employers want post-graduates that work in teams and function in a world culture.

Of the BIMS students surveyed upon graduation following the 2014–2015 academic year, almost a quarter said they had participated in an international experience. Crouch added, “Every student who comes back says they would do it again.”

Study Abroad Experiences

Students can participate in a variety of experiences through the Study Abroad Programs Office at Texas A&M;, as well as several faculty-led study abroad programs through the CVM.

In one program through the CVM, students travel to Kruger National Park and surrounding areas in South Africa to learn about chemically immobilizing, capturing, and transporting wildlife species. They work with big game, as well as plains game animals, and have the opportunity to interact with many local experts. Dr. James Derr, professor in VTPB and director of this South Africa international experience, said, “Every single day, the students have their hands on animals. For 15 days, we are darting animals, capturing animals, transporting animals, treating animals, and observing animals.” Derr continued, “The students get exposed to African veterinary medicine practices, wildlife conservation, economics, and sometimes the politics of wildlife and wildlife management.”

Veterinary students interested in learning about food safety and public health can participate in a summer short course in Italy. According to Budke, who helps coordinate the course, “The students learn about the European Union’s food safety regulatory system, which allows them to compare and contrast it with the U.S. system.” The students also interact with peers from another country who have unique perspectives and backgrounds.

Similarly, undergraduate students have analogous experiences through an international experience in Costa Rica. During this semester-long experience, students live and study at the Soltis Center. As part of the experience, students live with a host family for three weeks. “They are learning something about Latino culture, learning something about the language, and learning how to communicate as a biomedical professional in Texas,” said Dr. Don Brightsmith, assistant professor in VTPB and the director of the Costa Rica study abroad trip.

Like many study abroad opportunities, the semester in Costa Rica leads students to step outside of their comfort zone. London Dority, a student from the 2014 fall experience, said she got off the plane in Costa Rica and felt “alien in a new place. Everyone spoke only Spanish.” While in Costa Rica, she “overcame a lot of fears.” Dority couldn’t pronounce her name, when translated to Spanish, on the first day at a restaurant, but stayed with a host family for the cultural immersion. The host family welcomed her as one of their own and helped her practice Spanish over cookies and coffee in the afternoons. “The hands-on learning really helped me learn the material,” Dority said.

Spanish is also an integral component to the program in Spain, where students enroll at a local university and transfer the credits back to Texas A&M;, which is coordinated by Esteve-Gassent. The program, which emphasizes public health, is targeted to students who are interested in careers in veterinary medicine, human medicine, and public health. Specifically, the program focuses on how to communicate about global health in a different language. “It’s an immersion program,” Esteve-Gassent said. “The students need to experience what it is like to be in a different country, so they can appreciate at a different level why public health happens differently in different places.” She continued, “Cultures are different, people are different.”

Chinma Onyewuenyi, who is a medical student, participated in Esteve-Gassent’s trip to Spain as an undergraduate student, learned Spanish, and studied public health. Like Dority, she lived with a host family and experienced a cultural immersion. The program pushed Onyewuenyi to become independent. She learned to interact with people despite the language barrier and explore new places. “Just go. Go with a plan, go without a plan,” Onyewuenyi said. She encourages other students to go on an international experience and said, “because in the end, it doesn’t matter where you go or how you get there, but that you went. That’s what will change you.”

Wasser has developed experiences for both veterinary and undergraduate students in Germany. The veterinary students in the first two years of school travel with Dr. Michelle Pine, clinical associate professor in VIBS, to Europe for four weeks in the summer to experience aspects of the veterinary world in Germany and the Netherlands. Wasser leads the semester-long undergraduate experience in Germany, which has predominately BIMS and biomedical engineering students. The undergraduate program is a culturally intensive experience, including a stay with a German host family.

Students receiving IPAC funding write reports about their experiences, which can be seen at the International Programs website at tx.ag/studentreports.

Internationally Diverse Graduate Programs

Students from outside the United States are encouraged to travel to the CVM for educational, research, and cultural opportunities. “While it does not financially support international students, the IPAC helps to facilitate bringing international students to the CVM. It shouldn’t be a one-way street,” Budke said. “While at the CVM these students share their unique perspectives and experiences.” Esteve-Gassent brings veterinary students from Spain to Texas A&M; for clinical rotations and culturally immerses them in American culture, expanding their views.

Dr. Linda Logan, director of International Programs since 2010 and professor in VTPB, said she is interested in “diversifying our graduate program with international students.” As of the fall 2015 semester, there were 315 international students in the veterinary and graduate programs. These students represent 26 countries, including Colombia, Germany, Iraq, Nigeria, and Japan.

Esteve-Gassent encourages graduate students to research and collaborate at the CVM. She encourages students to determine what techniques they know. Then the students can identify techniques they want to learn in a collaborative experience. Currently, the Esteve-Gassent lab has an array of people from China, Egypt, India, and Brazil.

 

 

Faculty Engagement in International Research and
Development

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Biomedical Science students at the University Hospital Bonn in Bonn, Germany (Photo by Dr. Jeremy Wasser)

IPAC also supports faculty collaboration internationally. This includes research and development of new study abroad programs. International collaborative research at the CVM has centered on food security, global health, and the One Health Initiative, among others. Developing these collaborative research interests involves building international teams to obtain funding. For example, the CVM has successfully partnered with universities in Mexico to obtain Conacyt grants for collaborative research projects. The Conacyt program promotes inter-institutional research collaboration between Texas A&M; and Mexican educational institutions. Conacyt projects that faculty members at the CVM are working on include studying the immune response of an endangered species of fish and improving immune responses to brucellosis.

According to Esteve-Gassent, international collaborations aren’t “something that you plan.” She explained they develop by going to meetings and talking with people. Budke said these collaborations provide unique perspectives and problem-solving approaches “that help us tackle research questions in ways that may not be evident from a single cultural viewpoint.”

Many faculty at the CVM have international collaborations. These faculty members can act as resources to consult about funding possibilities. They also provide guidance for building new collaborations and developing new study abroad opportunities. When new ideas for collaborative research or teaching opportunities arise, faculty are encouraged. Esteve-Gassent said that with new international experiences, teaching or research, “Yes you can do it, but we may not know how yet.”

Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Dr. James Herman Receives A Presidential Professor of Teaching Excellence Award

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) is pleased to announce Dr. James Herman, clinical professor in the Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology (VTPP) at the CVM has been selected as one of two recipients of the 2016 Presidential Professorships for Teaching Excellence. This honor is based upon the recommendation of a university-wide selection committee facilitated by Dean of Faculties John R. August, in concurrence with Provost Karan L. Watson and President Michael K. Young.

Dr. James Herman
Dr. James Herman

Two Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Awards are presented every spring, each with a $25,000 stipend. The recipients are given the title “Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence,” which they retain for the remainder of his or her career. Along with Herman, Dr. Arvind Mahajan of Mays Business School received this award.

Herman holds four degrees from Texas A&M-a; B.S., DVM, M.S., and Ph.D. He joined the veterinary faculty in 1996 after operating a practice in San Antonio, TX. His commitment to excellence in teaching has been recognized through The Association of Former Students’ College-Level and University-Level Awards for teaching, and he is a Montague-Center for Teaching Excellence Scholar. He received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to research how bioengineers use the internet to enhance collaborative teaching experiences.

“We were proud and honored to hear President Young’s announcement that our own Dr. Herman is receiving the prestigious Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award at May graduation,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King dean of veterinary medicine. “He has made exceptional contributions to our college and to the university, and his remarkable achievements in the classroom are evident in the lives of his students.”

A few of the comments in his nomination letter reflect his impact on students, “His lectures were so entertaining and really aided in my understanding of the material,” said one student. “Dr. Herman is the most inspiring teacher that I have ever had, he made the classroom environment conducive to learning by interacting with us and making us feel comfortable,” said another.

Dr. Larry Suva, department head of VTPP said, “To quote Albert Einstein, ‘It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.’ This attribute epitomizes Dr. Herman’s teaching philosophy and is what all his students’ experience. I am privileged to know him and very thankful that Dr. Herman is a member of our department, college, and university.”

The Presidential Professor Award nominations are received from students, faculty members, and deans in each of the university’s colleges. Faculty Senate representatives review each nomination and narrow the list that is sent to the president for the final selections.

“My main goal is to help my students succeed by teaching them how to think critically, solve problems, and apply information so they excel in their chosen careers,” Herman said. “From my experience as a clinician and a researcher, I know that these are valuable tools and worth pursuing. The challenge comes in tailoring my approach to their specifications. Carefully, I construct a learning environment that is founded on respect and fairness so that the students will listen.”

Herman, will be named Presidential Professor of Teaching Excellence at the university commencement ceremony on Friday, May 13 at 2:00 p.m. in Reed Arena. Texas A&M; University bestows two of these awards each year to two extraordinary teachers.

The award was established in 2003 by former Texas A&M; President Robert M. Gates to underscore the importance of teaching at a major research university.

Dr. John N. Stallone Appointed Acting Department Head of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology

COLLEGE STATION, TX – With the recent appointment of Dr. Glen Laine as Interim Vice President for Research, Dr. John N. Stallone has accepted the role and was officially confirmed as Acting Department Head of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology (VTPP) in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), effective May 1.

 

Dr. John N. Stallone
Dr. John N. Stallone

Stallone, who earned his Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Arizona, has been a faculty member at the CVM since 1998. During that time, he has served multiple terms on the Faculty Senate, the Senate Executive Committee, and most recently as Speaker of the Faculty Senate.  He has been a member of the Texas A&M Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee since 1999-during most of which time he was vice-chair-and has served as its chair for the past two years. He has also been the vice-chair of the Graduate Instruction Committee at the CVM and served for many years as a Faculty Interviewer on the CVM Admissions Committee.

“As Dr. Laine steps into his new role in support of the university’s research enterprise, we are pleased that Dr. Stallone has agreed to assume the department head’s role for Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology,” said Dr. Eleanor Green, Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Dr. Stallone has distinguished himself as a full professor of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology and his knowledge of his department, our college and the university, in particular his service on the Faculty Senate, will make him a valuable addition to the administrative team.”

Stallone’s research focuses on the differences in cardiovascular function between men and women-both in health and in the development of various diseases, including hypertension and coronary artery disease-and how sex hormones play a role in these differences. Specifically, Stallone has looked at the so-called “estrogen paradox”: why there is a protective effect of this female sex hormone in younger women (and female animals) but deleterious effects in older females.  In more recent studies, Stallone has focused on the interactions between aging and estrogen in cerebral circulation, specifically the development of and recovery from stroke.

In his off time, Stallone is an avid horseman. He and his wife, Janet, are members of the East Texas Mounted Search and Rescue, and they also breed and show miniature Mediterranean donkeys.