Elisa Konofagou, PhD, the Robert and Margaret Hariri Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Radiology at Columbia University, and her research team recently treated the first patient in their clinical trial to open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Konofagou Columbia University AD patient treatment photo preferred blurred 16x9The team, based out of Dr. Konofagou’s Ultrasound Elasticity Imaging Laboratory (UEIL), is using a novel, neuronavigation-guided focused ultrasound system that they designed and tested.

The clinical trial will now enroll up to six eligible patients to assess the safety and feasibility of focused ultrasound–induced BBB opening with a single-element transducer under neuronavigational guidance. Using MRI and positron emission tomography, the investigators will also test whether the focused ultrasound procedure decreases the amyloid protein levels in the treated brain areas. Finally, the team plans to evaluate any potential treatment effects on the patients’ cognitive function.

Dr. Konofagou said, “I feel very proud of my incredible team for making a 16-year-old dream come true yesterday…A big thank you to the team for their perseverance and hard work as well as to the several UEIL alumni whose dedication and important discoveries have been the key to this accomplishment…”.

The study is co-led by Dr. Konofagou and Lawrence Honig, MD, PhD, a neurologist at the Taub Institute of Alzheimer’s Disease and Aging at Columbia. The Foundation is providing funding for this study.

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