Parkinson’s Disease

In search of the optimal closed-loop stimulation for Parkinson’s disease

a collaborative study between Oxford and Hebrew Universities

Professor Peter Brown & Professor Hagai Bergman

In this collaborative study between the University of Oxford and Hebrew University, Jeruselam, Professor Peter Brown and Professor Hagai Bergman aim to improve the delivery and tolerance of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for patients with Parkinson’s disease. They are building on earlier proof-of-principle studies in both Parkinsonian models and patients which showed that signature activities picked up in the brain can be used to trigger DBS when necessary, with increased efficiency and efficacy. The eventual goal is a double blind cross over trial contrasting adaptive and conventional DBS in patients with Parkinson’s disease. However, there is substantial work that has to be done before this to optimise adaptive DBS and then to check the efficacy and side-effect profile of adaptive DBS is sufficient to motivate such a major trial.


Alzheimer’s disease

Drugs that have been developed to treat type 2 diabetes may be effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease

Professor Christian Holscher, University of Lancaster

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurological disorder for which there is currently no treatment. The symptoms of memory loss and difficulties with problem-solving, thinking and language are linked to a loss of neural connections in the brain. There are a number of factors that can lead to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, including age and genetics, however, in recent years it has become clear that Type 2 Diabetes also contributes to the development of the disease. Research has shown that Liraglutide, a drug used to treat Type 2 Diabetes could reduce the symptoms and protect brain cells in a pre-clinical model of the disease. This drug is now being tested in in a phase 2 clinical trial for Alzheimer’s disease. Based on these promising findings, Professor Holscher’s team are testing newer drugs, to see if they might have more beneficial effects. The drugs that are being tested are chemically modified versions of two drugs that can encourage increased insulin production in the pancreas.


Schizophrenia

New ways of developing better drug treatments for early stage schizophrenia

Professor Joanna Neil, University of Manchester

Neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia remain poorly managed, with a limited understanding of the underlying pathology and a lack of effective treatments. However, it is becoming clear that maternal infection or trauma during pregnancy can result in changes to the developing brain, leading to schizophrenia in later life. These changes in brain structure have been linked with the development of the prodromal phase of Schizophrenia. This is the early stage of disease, which consists of vague symptoms that are often confused with other mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Professor Joanna Neil’s research aims to investigate how early brain changes are related to behavioural changes including attention and social communication and examine how the disease progresses. The researchers hope to identify biomarkers to help monitor the development and progression of Schizophrenia, and uncover new therapeutic targets or pathways.


Traumatic Brain Injury

A Wearable In-Ear System for Continuous Monitoring of Brain and Body Functions

Rosetrees 2014 Interdisciplinary Prize Winner

Professor Danilo Mandic, Professor David Sharp and Dr Valentin Goverdovsky , Imperial College London

Professor Danilo Mandic and Professor David Sharp at Imperial College London have been awarded the Rosetrees Interdisciplinary Prize 2014, for their innovative plans to develop a novel In-the-Ear (ITE) platform for discreet, unobtrusive and continuous monitoring of brain and body functions. Currently, diagnosis of a traumatic brain injury requires extensive tests

Research led by Professor Danilo Mandic and Professor David Sharp at Imperial College London is aiming to revolutionise the detection of many body functions using a device small enough to fit into the ear. Their project, which won the Rosetrees Interdisciplinary Prize, 2014 will develop a discreet, in-ear device that could be used to simultaneously record many body functions including breathing, heart rate and brain function. This could be used in many situations, in particular monitoring brain activity within the ‘golden hour’ following a traumatic brain injury. Fast diagnosis of a brain injury could have a dramatic impact on patient treatment and outcomes.

The in-ear system will integrate mechanical, electrical and movement signals via a small, battery operated device that could be comfortably be worn and allow wireless transmission of information over a number of days, without any side effects. This makes it ideal for the intensive are setting, where it could be easily inserted and removed.


Multiple Sclerosis

 

‘Seeing’ brain stem cells

Prof Robin Franklin & Dr Steven Kealey, University of Cambridge

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a result of the destruction of the protective covering of nerves in the central nervous system, known as myelin.  This causes slow/poor transmission of signals, which leads to nerve damage and disability. There are currently no treatments for the progressive phase of the disease, where myelin is continually broken down, and symptoms worsen. One promising possibility is replacing myelin by increasing the number of myelin producing cells, but this has been hampered by limited cell numbers. In this study, Professor Robin Franklin plans to be able to quantify the number of cells a patient has by developing a radioligand which binds to myelin producing cells. It is hoped this work will lead to improved success of remyelination strategies, as identifying patients with fewer progenitor cells will enable them to receive further treatment to increase these cells.

 

 

Potential protective effect of statins on neurovascular and neuronal function in the context of secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis

Professor John Greenwood, University College London

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects over 2.3 million people worldwide and is the commonest cause of disability in young adults.  Previous work by Professor Greenwood showed that the cholesterol lowering drugs, statins, can protect patients from the secondary progressive form of multiple sclerosis (MS), and uveitis. In this study Professor Greenwood’s team are investigating how statins exert their protective effect by examining how they influence cerebral and retinal blood flow in a clinical study. They are also using pre-clinical models of SPMS to study the effects of statins on blood flow, vasculature, neurotoxic protection and immune function.  If successful this will provide further evidence for the use of statins in SPMS and potentially other neurodegenerative disorders.

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