Kevin Lee, PhD, Harrison Foundation Professor of Neuroscience, Professor of Neurosurgery, and Member of the Brain, Immunology, and Glia Center at the University of Virginia Health System (UVA) recently received a $2.5 million federal grant to explore a novel method for treating epilepsy using focused ultrasound. The R01 grant was awarded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The preclinical project will utilize Precise Intracerebral Noninvasive Guided surgery – or PING – in an animal model of temporal lobe epilepsy. Low-intensity focused ultrasound will be used to open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and deliver a systemically administered neurotoxin to the brain parenchyma in a targeted area that is responsible for generating seizures. The brain parenchyma typically has low permeability to most drugs, but studies indicate that focused ultrasound can temporarily loosen the BBB’s tight cell structure, and thus noninvasively allow the toxin to enter the desired portion of the brain. Researchers believe the toxin will destroy the seizure-generating neurons without harming the nerve axons or vasculature that are passing through the same area.