Team Hydro proud to sponsor Dr. Yan Ding with 2017 Innovator Award

Hydrocephalus is a disease with a desperate need for a cure — the condition affects more than one million Americans, costs the U.S. more than $1 billion per year, and though it afflicts people of all ages, has long maintained its infamous position as the number one cause of neurosurgery in children.

Nevertheless, hydrocephalus treatment hasn’t seen a major innovation in more than 60 years. The most common treatment (a neurosurgically implanted “shunt” device) has seen more than 200 patented modifications since the 1960s, none of which has ever been shown to improve clinical outcomes.  Even now, devices fail up to 50% of the time within two years!  Clearly, we are in need of a fundamentally new approach to treatment for this disease. To this end, Team Hydro is committed to supporting efforts with promise to cure this illness through radically innovative approaches to therapies.

And it’s hard to be much more innovative than Dr. Yan Ding, PhD!

Dr. Ding is the recipient of a 2017 Innovator Research Grant, sponsored by Team Hydro in conjunction with the Hydrocephalus Association.

Dr. Ding’s research is exploring a component of the human neurological system that wasn’t even known to exist until 2014. This recently discovered system, known as the glymphatic system, mediates the absorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, a.k.a. the “hydro” that builds up in hydrocephalus), and as such is an extremely exciting area for those of us interested in hydrocephalus.

Dr. Ding was kind enough to chat with us recently about her work.  Among other things, she explained why it is that the glymphatic system is particularly promising in infants who (like Kate, Team Hydro’s original inspiration) develop hydrocephalus after “brain bleeds” called germinal matrix hemorrhages:

In adults, CSF is mainly reabsorbed through [microscopic vessels called] the subarachnoid villi. However, subarachnoid villi are sparsely distributed and underdeveloped in infants. The exact mechanism remains largely unknown, and researchers are speculating that the newly discovered glymphatic system might play a more important role in CSF drainage in infants. My research funded by this award is to first establish the important role of the glymphatic system in neonatal CSF reabsorption and identify how germinal matrix hemorrhages impair its function on the protein level.

Dr. Ding and her supervisor, Dr. John Zhang, MD, PhD are uniquely well positioned to explore these questions and link them to new therapies.

Our previous research has made a connection between astrogliotic scarring around the ventricular area and the reduced CSF reabsorption. Thus, I will try to use an anti-scarring agent to reduce the scar tissue formation and restore CSF reabsorption through the glymphatic system in post-hemorrhagic neonates.

In doing so, my research goal is to further elucidate the formation of PHH in the context of GMH and to seek pharmacological therapeutic targets.

How is this previously unknown glympathic drainage system involved in hydrocephalus?  Can we use drugs to strengthen the glymphatic drainage and prevent or treat hydrocephalus non-invasively?  All of these are open questions, but we couldn’t be more excited to support Dr. Yan Ding in figuring them out!

Thank you, Dr. Ding!  And Go Team Hydro!

Team Hydro Escapes “The Rock” for GOOD–and completes 11th Alcatraz Swim!

The sun was bright, the water was (a burning hot!) 62 degrees, and spirits were soaring as Team Hydro completed its 11th swim crossing from Alcatraz Island for Hydrocephalus!

The dense fog cleared just in time for the Coast Guard to give us the final go-ahead (note the fog bank still blocking view of the ROCK in photo below, taken as the Team posed together just moments before boarding the boats to the island).  Truly the day could not have been more perfect for our Swim for Hydrocephalus Research!!  Every swimmer made it successfully to shore, friendships were formed, and passion and funds were generated in support of our important cause:  raising awareness and funds for hydrocephalus research!!


42 swimmers signed-up for the escape, and we saw record times!  Five swimmers broke the 30-minute mark, with veterans Kyle Voulgaris (23:10), Reed Gallogly (24:00), and Steven Wright (26:32) bringing it home first in blazing time.  On the female side, Caitlin Hall (28:44), Kate Damrell (31:50), and Amy Squeglia (32:00) led the charge.  Those really braving it for the Team were our four non-wetsuit swimmers who made the swim in incredible time despite the lack of buoyancy, as well as warmth, that a wet-suit provides!  Special congrats (and admiration) to non-wet-suit swimmers:  Ryan McCarthy (32:56), Kevin Buskirk (33:14), Court Austin (33:58), and Mike Waite (34:38)!!!

As quick as our swimmers were, however, they managed to be even more inspiring.  Kyle Voulgaris and Kate Damrell (shown below), truly set the pace for the rest of us– not just in the water, but in our hearts as well —  both live with shunted hydrocephalus, and were kind enough to speak to the pre-race crowd.  Their gathered Teammates could not have been more moved or inspired as they listened to these two amazing people share their experiences with hydrocephalus, and demonstrate their personal commitment to raising research funds, in hopes that one day, others will not need suffer the surgeries, pain, medical complications, and ongoing uncertainty that they bravely endure every day of their lives.


Kyle Voulgaris and Kate Damrell — True Team Hydro Heroes!

Also among the ranks of Team Hydro were ~20 members of Genentech’s neuroscience division, as well as researchers, parents/siblings of hydrocephalus patients, and a whole bunch of fantastic friends.

Team Hydro is on a record setting pace with regard to fundraising as well, with over $112,000 raised even before the end of the swim.  But we can’t stop there!  We need to keep pressing forward–

Support the cause at  and remember, 100% of EVERY donation directly supports desperately needed research!

To all who helped to make today so special– from our SWIMMERS, to our incredible VOLUNTEERS , SUPPORTERS, and DONORS– thank you!  

Team Hydro is especially Grateful to all those at Genentech who helped make this day such an incredible SUCCESS!

We cant wait to see you all again!!

Go Team Hydro!  Don’t Not Try!

The $1M Breakthrough! Q&A with Dr. Blazer-Yost

BBY-1Dr. Bonnie Blazer-Yost, Ph.D is a Professor of Biology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the Indiana University School of Medicine.

In 2015, Team Hydro was proud to sponsor Dr. Blazer-Yost by funding an Innovator Award through the Hydrocephalus Association to support her work studying the pharmacologic modulation of cerebrospinal fluid production.  She put these funds to fantastic use, producing results that helped uncover new insights into the molecular mechanisms behind CSF and Hydrocephalus.  To boot, these results have enabled her recently to receive a highly competitive, ~$1.3 million grant from the Department of Defense, so that she can develop her insights into potential pharmacologic therapies!  What a return on investment!

We caught up with Dr. Blazer-Yost to hear about what brought her into Hydrocephalus research and to learn more about her exciting vision for the future.


TEAM HYDRO: Could you tell us a bit about your research and how it relates to hydrocephalus?

Dr. Blazer-Yost: My lab members and I are studying the basic mechanisms that are important in controlling how the body moves salt and water. Simply put, if the body wants to move water or produce a fluid like, for example, cerebrospinal fluid, it generally moves electrolytes in a very controlled way and the water follows by simple osmosis. For many years, I studied similar mechanisms in the kidney where water and electrolyte movements are hormonally controlled and are important for the regulation of blood pressure.

TEAM HYDRO: Interesting. How did you first become involved in hydrocephalus research?

Dr. Blazer-Yost: We were researching a potential treatment for a disease called polycystic kidney disease. Interestingly, this disease occurs with about the same incidence as hydrocephalus and there are no FDA-approved drugs for its treatment. Through our basic research we were able to identify a diabetes drug that could be re-purposed to treat polycystic kidney disease. We completed the preclinical testing in animals with good results and this drug is now in clinical trials for the treatment of polycystic kidney disease. During the initial pre-clinical studies we were using several animal models and one of these was a rat model that had both polycystic kidney disease and hydrocephalus. Using a chemical compound that was separate from the one that is in clinical trials we found that there was an effect on hydrocephalus rather than the kidney disease. A generous pilot grant from our University allowed us to confirm these initial findings.

TEAM HYDRO: You recently shared some fantastic news with us, fueled in part by the results from your work funded by Team Hydro. Could you describe these new developments in your lab?

Dr. Blazer-Yost: After we confirmed our initial findings it was necessary to obtain additional preliminary data that would make us competitive for national funding. The grant support from Team Hydro was instrumental in providing the funds to continue the research and obtain the preliminary data for submission of a grant to the Department of Defense ($1.3M!). We were elated to get the news that this proposal was accepted for funding. With the pilot funding from Team Hydro and our institution, we were not only able to obtain the preliminary data, but also to put together a stellar team of investigators. The grant enables me to fund 4 graduate students who are all in place and trained in the techniques we will be using. Our group is joined by a neurosurgeon who keeps us in tune with the realities of human hydrocephalus, a behavioral psychologist who will be directing studies to determine if treatment with our potential drug helps the animals attain a more normal activity profile, a radiologist who has developed the techniques that are needed to do MRIs in the rat pups to determine the degree of hydrocephalus and whether the treatment is helping this, and a new faculty member who is an expert in molecular biology and has brought a second hydrocephalic model into the study. Our overall goal at the end of this three year grant is to have conducted pre-clinical testing of the potential drug in three animal models – two pediatric and one adult.

TEAM HYDRO: How exciting!  Given the existence of these large public organizations that fund research in the United States (NIH, DoD, etc.), could you comment a bit for our donors on the important role that private grants play in the research process?  In other words, why should people donate to Team Hydro?

Dr. Blazer-Yost: No laboratory can effectively compete for grants from the large public organizations without preliminary data. Since my laboratory was, in essence, changing fields we had no preliminary data and without the pilot grants would have never been competitive for the large grant that we have now obtained. Having groups like Team Hydro that understand the disease and are willing to fund “high-risk/high-impact” projects like our initial studies, makes a huge difference in moving the research toward a cure. Groups like Team Hydro, the Hydrocephalus Association, the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation and the Cystic Fibrosis Association are all examples of fundraising groups that have come together to advance research toward a cure for a particular disease and all have had remarkably positive impacts on the research in their particular fields.

TEAM HYDRO: Well, we are certainly thrilled that you’re changing fields into Hydrocephalus!  As you know, the current (surgical) treatment for hydrocephalus is invasive, dangerous, and often ineffective. What is your lab’s vision as you look forward in this important field?

Dr. Blazer-Yost: Our goal is to study the basic mechanisms of the production of cerebrospinal fluid to try to determine how this production could be safely manipulated with drugs to decrease the amount in a controlled manner. Thus far we have shown in our animal model that treatment with our compound of interest does decrease the hydrocephalus. Our next immediate goal is to see if this works in a second animal model. The other thing that we want to do with the current funding is to obtain a better understanding of the biochemical mechanism of cerebrospinal fluid production, what factors in the body may cause this to increase and are there other points in the biochemical pathway that could be targets for drug development. Regardless of the cause of the hydrocephalus, decreasing production of the fluid would have the same effect as placing as shunt except that this does not require surgery and can used only as needed.

TEAM HYDRO:  It’s certainly hard to overstate the impact that such treatments would have on the million+ Americans with Hydrocephalus!  Thank you, Dr. Blazer-Yost!


Dr. Blazer-Yost’s work is a perfect example of everything we hope to achieve in supporting research through Team Hydro:  Not only does her work hit straight at the heart of Hydrocephalus on a molecular level, with exciting promise for non-invasive therapies, but it also has brought a new set of brilliant minds into the field of Hydrocephalus research.

But there still remains much to be done!  At Team Hydro, we are committed to supporting the next wave of researchers seeking to understand and cure this neglected yet terrible disease.  Let’s keep pushing!

Go Team Hydro!  Together we can CURE hydrocephalus!

Blazer-Yost - DoD team

Blazer-Yost Lab sends Team Hydro a “good luck wave” as we prepare to make a splash in the Bay!

Team Hydro to Escape from “The Rock” AGAIN in 10th Anniversary Swim for Hydrocephalus!

On August 26th, TEAM HYDRO will gather for an exciting and unprecedented event–a SECOND Alcatraz swim in one summer!!

This Exciting swim will not only help mark TEAM HYDRO’s 10th Anniversary, but it will also be our first Bay crossing consisting exclusively of TEAM HYDRO Swimmers. The event, made possible by a generous grant from Genentech will feature 50 TEAM HYDRO Swimmers, each of whom have committed to raising funds for hydrocephalus research!

Swimmers of all ages and from all walks of life have been working hard to spread the word regarding the desperate need for hydrocephalus research. The Team’s dedication to helping our cause has already been having incredible results! With over a week to go, our TEAM is closing in on the $100,000 mark for 2017!!  If our swimmers hit their goals by August 26th, we’ll exceed that figure!  As with all of our Team Hydro Events, 100% of funds raised by our swimmers will go DIRECTLY to support important hydrocephalus research!

Swimming along with the team will be two members who are currently living with shunted hydrocephalus–Kyle Voulgaris and Kate Damrell–and their courage and strength (despite each having already undergone countless brain surgeries and endured unimaginable pain) certainly inspires us all!

While the connection to the cause is personal for Kyle and Kate, many of our swimmers had not heard of hydrocephalus or been aware of the desperate need to find better treatments and a cure for the condition prior to joining TEAM HYDRO.  Upon learning about the difficulties facing people with hydrocephalus, these swimmers were so inspired by the cause that they became motivated to look past their own lives and use their strength and time and skill to fund hydrocephalus research that will help others –people they don’t even know– to find hope in the midst of the their struggle with this life-threatening condition!  Thank you to our TEAM HYDRO swimmers, donors and on-land supporters!! We could not be more grateful for your efforts and support!!

Indeed we could not be more proud that TEAM HYDRO is “Escaping the Rock–for Good”!

Thanks to you—We ARE well on our way to FUNDING a CURE!!

If you would like to donate to the cause, click HERE.