Theses Doctoral

Quantitative analysis of the focused ultrasound-induced blood-brain barrier opening with applications in neurodegenerative disorders

Karakatsani, Maria Eleni

The blood-brain barrier poses a formidable impediment to the treatment of adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders, by prevention of most drugs from gaining access to the brain parenchyma. Focused ultrasound (FUS), in conjunction with systemically administered microbubbles, has been shown to open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) locally, reversibly and non invasively both in rodents and in non-human-primates. Initially, we demonstrate a monotonic increase of the BBB opening volume with close to normal incidence angle, detectable by diffusion tensor imaging; the employed contrast-free magnetic resonance protocol that revealed the anisotropic nature of the diffusion gradient. Implementation of this optimized BBB opening technique in Parkinsonian mice, coupled with the administration of trophic growth factors, induced restorative effects in the dopaminergic neurons, the main cellular target of the pathological process in Parkinson’s disease. The immune response initiated by the FUS-induced BBB disruption has been proven pivotal in reducing proteinaceous aggregates from the brain through the activation of a gliosis cascade. Therefore, we investigated this immunomodulatory effect in Alzheimer’s disease. The neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease include aggregation of amyloid beta into plaques and accumulation of tau protein into neurofibrillary tangles. Tau pathology correlates well with impaired neuronal activity and dementia and was found to be attenuated after the application of ultrasound that correlated with increased microglia activity. Given the beneficial effect of this methodology on the Alzheimer’s pathologies when studied separately, we explored the application of FUS in brains subjected concurrently to amyloidosis and tau phosphorylation. Our findings indicate the reduction of tau protein and decrease in the amyloid load from brains treated with ultrasound, accompanied by spatial memory improvement. Overall, in this dissertation, we established an optimized targeting and detection protocol, pre-clinical implementation of which confirmed its ameliorative effects as a drug-delivery adjuvant or an immune response stimulant. These preclinical findings support the immense potential of such a methodology that significantly contributes to the treatment of different neurodegenerative disorders curbing their progression.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Konofagou, Elisa E.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 27, 2020