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Duke Neurology Research Round Up, September 2018

Monday, October 1, 2018

The past month of research from the Duke Neurology Department spanned from the bench to the bedside. Al La Spada, MD, PhD, was the senior author of a review of neurodegenerative diseases which discusses how this disparate group of conditions start and develop, and offers new avenues for treatment. At the clinical level, new studies provide important information on how people recover from stroke, discuss how early detection can benefit individuals with Parkinson’s disease, and offer guidance on how to diagnose and treat rare neuroimmune disorders. Read the article below to see a summary of research from members of our Department in September 2018.


  • Although diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are all distinct, devastating conditions, they are all characterized by neurodegeneration. In the latest issue of Nature Neuroscience, senior author Al La Spada, MD, PhD, reviews the latest research on these conditions, from the complex genetic factors and cellular pathways that influence their genesis and development, to new research efforts that may be key to preventing and treating these conditions. Read that article here.
  • The use of human pluripotent stem cells requires a simple effective method of cryopreservation. However, traditional methods tend to diminish the ability of these cells to successfully develop into other cell types. In the latest issue of Stem Cell Research, Al La Spada, MD, PhD, contributed to an article that examined a new cryopreservation method that does not have as many unwanted side effects. Read their article here.

Neurocritical Care

  • For patients with intracerebral hemorrhage, there is a knowledge gap about factors that influence recovery and other factors over the long term. Michael Luke James, MD, contributed to a recent study in the Journal of Critical Care that examined that issue for patients with severe disability and in vegetative states, finding both higher mortality and reduced improvement for patients in a vegetative state. Read the full study here.
  • James also contributed to a recent case-control study that examined how cardiac surgery affected changes in cerebral perfusion. Read what they found in the most recent issue of Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders

  • Like many other neurodegenerative diseases, Parkinson’s likely begins years or even decades before obvious symptoms appear, leaving biomarkers and other preclinical methods of diagnosis a potential path to improve treatment. Sneha Mantri, MD, was the lead author of a review article that examines existing and emerging methods of diagnosing Parkinson’s disease and discusses how early diagnosis will improve treatment and quality of life. Read that article here.
  • Overexpression of the SNCA gene can cause Parkinson’s disease and related disorders. If researchers can come up with a method to accurately and efficiently manipulate SNCA levels, they can create a gene therapy as a means of precision medicine to prevent these conditions. Senior author Ornit Chiba-Falek, PhD, Lidia Tagliafierro, and colleges developed an innovative platform that allows the regulation of gene expression programs to be fine-tuned. Read their article in the latest issue of Molecular Therapy.

Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology

  • A new form of therapy known as immune checkpoint inhibitors show great promise in cancer care by stimulating the immune system to attack tumors. However, this therapy can also cause the immune system to react against normal healthy tissue. Lead author Anastasie Dunn-Pirio, MD, senior author Christopher Eckstein, MD, and Suma Shah, MD, wrote a case report in which this harmful reaction occurred against the central nervous system. Read their article in Case Reports in Oncology here.
  • Schilder’s disease, a rare aggressive disease related to multiple sclerosis, usually responds to treatment. Senior author Christopher Eckstein, MD, and lead author Anastasie Dunn-Pirio, MD, wrote a recent case report detailing a teenager who had a recurrence of the disease nearly one year after treatment. Read their case report in the latest issue of Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.