Elisa Konofagou, PhD envisions a day when effective treatments and cures are available for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and amythrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Toward that end, she has been researching noninvasive ways to temporarily open the protective blood-brain barrier that now limits the delivery of most systemically-administered treatments for those diseases.
The Focused Ultrasound Foundation is supporting her work via a $100,000 research award that will enable Konofagou, an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering and Radiology at Columbia University in New York, to conduct a study that will explore the use of focused ultrasound in opening the blood-brain barrier opening to facilitate drug delivery in neurological and neurodegenerative diseases.
“The underlying hypothesis of this study is that delivery of therapeutic molecules is safe and effective through the blood-brain barrier using focused ultrasound,” Konofagou explains. “Our preliminary results have shown that the FUS technique can induce blood-brain barrier opening entirely noninvasively, selectively and be monitored with MRI at sub-millimeter resolution in vivo.” During the study, Konofagou will test and demonstrate delivery of neurotrophic factors to the hippocampus and putamen regions of the brain and assess the safety of the focused ultrasound method.