Developing new treatments for neurological disorders requires overcoming multiple barriers. First, the brain is complex, and the same illness may not present the same way in every person. This complexity requires access to multiple approaches and treatment options. Second, the brain is extremely good at protecting itself, even when interventions are designed to help it. The natural blood-brain barrier prevents harmful substances from entering, but it is so efficient that it also prevents many treatments from working as well as they could. Advances in neurological research often focus on novel ways to identify treatment pathways and develop treatment modalities that work with the body’s existing systems to improve patient outcomes.
Identifying a Potential Trigger for Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune central nervous system disorder that causes the body’s white blood cells to attack the myelin sheath around nerve cells. The attack creates a loss of myelin, or demyelination, which can be seen in imaging studies as scarring or lesions. Scientists have long known that lesion formation has at least one environmental trigger contributing to the hallmark identifier of the disease. However, identifying an environmental trigger is a huge undertaking, with many potential research paths to choose from. A collaborative research effort between New York Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine recently focused on potential triggers within the human gut biome. This advance in neurological research concluded that people with MS had higher levels of epsilon toxin-producing strains of Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens) in their gut compared to a healthy control population. Further research into neutralizing the toxin offers the possibility of promising new developments in treatment options for MS patients.
Laser Thermal Ablation for Focused Seizure Treatment
Epilepsy is a brain disorder causing recurring seizures. With a wide variety of symptoms and causes, there are many known types of epilepsy, while others remain unidentified. Improvements in brain imaging scans have allowed scientists to see seizure activity in real-time, increasing the understanding of epileptic seizures and expanding the potential ideas for treatment options, particularly in patients who do not respond well to traditional pharmaceutical therapies. A new procedure called MR-guided laser interstitial thermal ablation has shown promise in its early stages. As a less invasive procedure than open surgery, neurosurgeons placed a laser fiber into the hippocampus through a small opening, targeting the location of the seizure. While the study size is small and currently limited to seizures related to the hippocampus, future neurological research could offer similar treatments for other focal locations with minimal intrusion into the surrounding brain, resulting in fewer neurological side effects and more options for pharmacologically resistant forms of epilepsy.
Targeting the Genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder that destroys thinking processes and memory recall, resulting in a decline in cognitive functioning. Advances in this area of neurological research continue to search for more effective treatments, and another collaborative endeavor between New York Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine is exploring targeted gene therapy for the treatment of the disease. Focusing on the series of Apolipoprotein E (APOE) genes, neurosurgeons and scientists are working to deliver the APOE2 to compensate for APOE4. Having the APOE4 gene is believed to be one of the stronger risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s while having APOE2 seems to have a potentially protective effect from the disease. By injecting APOE2 into the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with APOE4, researchers hope to determine if the additional APOE2 helps to offset the pathology of Alzheimer’s caused by APOE4.
Personalized Neurological Treatment at Foothills Neurology
Foothills Neurology believes accurate diagnosis and treatments mean staying up to date with developing therapies and novel ideas and changing our protocols when new options are available. We offer the most advanced diagnostics and tailored treatment programs for your needs. If you are experiencing neurological concerns, contact us today to schedule an appointment with our compassionate and caring specialists.