Developing methods to assess cerebrospinal fluid flow velocity in the glymphatic pathways

Researchers recently discovered that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) plays a critical role in removing brain waste and toxic materials such as beta-amyloid, which has been linked with dementia. It was observed that cerebrospinal fluid flow is severely hindered following under various brain pathological conditions. Major glymphatic/cleansing pathways are located along the major arteries, such as the circle of Willis. However, traditionally cerebrospinal fluid flow was measured in the Sylvian aqueduct, which belongs to the different domain of cerebrospinal circulation. Prof. Gavin Britz MD, MBA, MPH, Drs. Eugene Golanov, MD, PhD and Christof Karmonik, PhD are developing new methods for the measurement of CSF flow using the Siemens 7 Tesla (7T) MAGNETOM Terra MRI. The project explores CSF flow hindrance in the glymphatic pathways of and its role in the development in various pathological states, including traumatic brain injury. The project has been awarded $100,000 by Siemens.

Methods and devices to assist and improve cerebrospinal fluid drainage

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) serves several purposes vital for the normal brain function including mechanical support, maintenance of brain homeostasis and humoral factors distribution. An important function of CSF is the clearance of the brain metabolic waste and various pathogenic elements such as abnormal proteins. Thus, maintenance of normal CSF drainage is of utmost importance for the normal brain and abnormalities of CSF drainage are being linked to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and hydrocephalus; two devastating neurological disorders in a dire need of new and effective treatment. We are conducting an innovative set of experiments to show the capability of percutaneous electrical stimulation of the neck muscles to improve and accelerate the CSF drainage. The overarching goal of this work is to develop a wearable and non-invasive device. Results of studies conducted by Dr. Angelique Regnier-Golanov, PhD under guidance of Dr. Gavin Britz, MD, MBA, MPH showed that electrical stimulation of the neck muscles in mice induced a significant decrease of intracranial pressure in mice in vivo. These studies led to a patent application filing in April 2021: U.S. Patent Application: Nº: 63/178,616.

Nano-neurotechnology and brain injury

Unconventionally acquired brain injury (UBI) from focused ultrasound (FUS) and electromagnetic (EM) sources have become an emerging threat to service members and diplomats. As a result, it has become critical to understand the immediate physiological responses to UBI so that real-time monitoring and intervention systems can be developed to detect and treat these injuries promptly. Recently, Dr. Sonia Villapol and her collaborators at Rice University were awarded $2.5 million by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to identify critical biochemical and biophysical markers that respond within seconds to UBI from militarily relevant energy sources and to determine if the identified first biological responders depend on the energy source. Specifically, they will successfully integrate high-speed electrical, optical and chemical sensing methods that will enable the detection of many biochemical and biophysical markers within milliseconds to seconds following UBI in vitro and in vivo.

Technologies and machine learning methodologies for systematic detection of mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs)

mTBIs are the most common type of brain injury. If undiagnosed, mTBI may lead to various short and long-term abnormalities, which include, but are not limited to impaired cognitive function, fatigue, depression, irritability and headaches. Existing screening and diagnostic tools to detect acute and early-stage mTBIs have insufficient sensitivity and specificity. Therefore, it is important to identify relevant physiological biomarkers that can be integrated into a mutually complementary set using contemporary machine learning tools and data processing methodologies to provide on-site diagnostic of mTBI. The Center is developing new tools and respective portable devices that could be employed in the field to diagnose mTBI.