Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects over 2.5 million people worldwide and causes neurological symptoms such as loss of cognitive or motor function. Permanent disability in people with MS is mainly due to the spinal cord lesions which cannot be repaired as of today. Researchers from Stanford are testing a non-invasive neurostimulation approach called Focused Ultrasounds (FUS) for promoting spinal cord repair after MS lesions damage. This research project is funded via a research grant provided by the Start2Cure Foundation.
While current therapies for MS reduce new relapses , chronic inflammation is still present. Therefore, brain and spinal cord damage still accumulates, resulting in further disability in the long term, even when relapses are suppressed with current therapies. There are no approved therapies promoting lesion repair and disability recovery. Thus, developing new treatments for promoting brain and spinal cord damage repair and recovering permanent disability with good tolerability and safety (non-invasive) is a high priority.
Focused Ultrasound (FUS) therapy is an emergent technology that delivers sound energy with a high resolution and has deep penetration (capable of reaching deep brain structures and spinal cord). Ultrasound have been used for diagnosis for decades, and therefore safety parameters are well known. This project aims to identify a FUS paradigm for promoting spinal cord neuroprotection and repair in MS. The researchers will at first test this technology in an animal model for MS and then develop a protocol for targeting the human spinal cord, the main driver to the permanent disability in people with MS. Importantly, this therapy could be compatible with the current disease-modifying drugs.
The principal investigators are Professors Pablo Villoslada, Kimberly Butts Pauly, and Lawrence Steinman, from the Departments of Neurology and Neurological Sciences and Radiology at Stanford University. Stanford is pioneering research and clinical applications in the field of focused ultrasound, from Parkinson disease or epilepsy to central nervous system repair like in MS.