Trained as a neurologist, Thilo Hoelscher, M.D., has travelled a long way from his native Germany and his early clinical experiences at that country’s first stroke unit. Now an assistant professor in the Departments of Radiology and Neurosciences at the University of California San Diego, he is Director of its Brain Ultrasound Research Laboratory and working once again on the forefront of medicine.
As a researcher and clinician, Hoelscher has extensive experience in using transcranial ultrasound as a diagnostic tool. In 2007, he learned about high intensity focused ultrasound and became intrigued with its potential to treat the human brain. Since then, he has completed hundreds of preclinical experiments with FUS and concentrated on developing therapies based on a clot-busting technique, transcranial sonothrombolysis. He recently received a multi-million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to study sonothrombolysis as a treatment for ischemic stroke.
Hoelscher, who received a FUSF fellowship in 2009, expects to begin pilot clinical trials in 2011 using FUS to treat stroke and believes success is inevitable. “Once it is approved for use in patients, FUS will be without equal – it will have no competition. In treating ischemic stroke, for example, it will dissolve blood clots and restore blood flow within seconds. Drugs like tPA won’t be necessary,” he says.
Hoelscher’s work has moved beyond exploring the thermal ablative capabilities of FUS to assessing its use in precise drug delivery and its ability to induce cellular mechanisms.
Noting that the pace of FUS research is accelerating, he says. “Our work has been booming during the last six to eight months. Everything has started to progress rapidly. Researchers from all over the place are interested in focused ultrasound. Ideas and new collaborations are popping up everywhere.”