Neurological conditions — such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and stroke — affect millions of Americans and have a devastating effect on the quality of life. ASRI scientists are exploring novel ways to restore function and independence to patients with these diseases. According to Thomas Scott, MD, an ASRI researcher and Medical Director of the Allegheny MS Treatment Center at WPAHS, existing therapies are geared toward decreasing the number of MS attacks. While symptoms may temporarily disappear during remissions, this autoimmune disease eventually progresses and causes permanent neurological problems in most patients. Neurological researchers at ASRI are turning to neuroimmunology to find better forms of treatment for this disabling disease.
“We are looking at the role of protein expression in a group of T-cells called CD4-lymphocytes, a group of white blood cells that are involved in the inflammation response during MS,” said Dr. Scott. “For example, we are trying to determine how interferons may minimize the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.”
Using state-of the art tools (with researchers in the Center for Genomic Sciences) such as microarrays, Dr. Scott’s team at AGH is simultaneously scanning several thousand genes to compare mRNA expression in MS patients before and after treatment. They are also employing flow cytometry to examine proteins on the cell surfaces of the selective types of lymphocytes that express receptors for signaling molecules, as well as western blotting to quantify the downstream effects on the amount of proteins produced by various cells after clues are collected from mRNA expression experiments. Through these various approaches, researchers hope to learn more about the immunology of MS.
ASRI neurology researchers are also continuing to develop rationales for new therapies for persons who develop epileptic seizures following a stroke and for individuals who suffer from epilepsy after a traumatic brain injury. Their goal is to determine which pathways in the brain become disrupted following stroke and brain injury that lead to the development of seizures. Once those disrupted pathways are determined, an appropriate intervention could be developed to block the abnormal mechanism and prevent or limit epileptic seizures. Researcher
Kevin M. Kelly, MD, PhD has pioneered and established several models of post-stroke and post-traumatic epilepsy with long-term video-electroencephalogram (EEG) studies. His research group has also performed numerous electrophysiological studies on single brain cells to determine how their electrical properties change in response to the brain injuries and whether these changes can predispose the brain to epileptic seizures.