Research Projects 

 

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Mechanism of Brain Disorders 

In the BBB Lab, we are studying the mechanisms underlying disturbances of brain function in common neurological disorders. Our mechanistic findings provide a guiding framework for translation into the human clinical context, including large-scale epidemiological studies that are needed to establish the relationship between BBB status, other known biomarkers, and disease outcomes.

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Better Diagnosis of Brain Disorders 

Our findings suggest that the aging brain may retain considerable cognitive capacity, which may be chronically suppressed (but not irreversibly lost) by BBB leakiness and its inflammatory fallout.

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New Treatments

Our research offers new hope in two key unmet areas: early detection (via MRI of BBB status) and a new avenue for disease-modifying treatment that is mechanistically distinct from other canonical dementia targets, many of which have failed in clinical trials.

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Havana Syndrome

In late 2016, US and Canadian diplomats in Havana began presenting with a variety of neurological manifestations that proved difficult to diagnose. Though a few studies suggested brain injury, the mechanism of injury, brain regions involved, and etiology remained unknown. Under support from Global Affairs Canada, we examined the diplomats experiencing symptoms while residing in Havana. Using a multimodal approach combining clinical, cognitive and advanced brain imaging measures, we documented functional and structural brain impairments in brain regions, raising the hypothesis of overexposure to pesticides as a plausible etiology. The hypothesis is supported by the history of exposure to insecticides as part of the “Zika campaign” in Cuba. The goal of the our research is to study the effects of chronic, low dose insecticide poisoning.

EEG at Kakumbi Rural Health Clinic
EEG at Kakumbi Rural Health Clinic

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Andrew Malunga, Project Lead in Zambia
Andrew Malunga, Project Lead in Zambia

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Kakumbi Rural Health Clinic
Kakumbi Rural Health Clinic

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EEG at Kakumbi Rural Health Clinic
EEG at Kakumbi Rural Health Clinic

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Mfuwe Epilepsy Project

Over 80% of the 65 million individuals with epilepsy worldwide reside in low and middle income countries. The high prevalence of epilepsy in developing countries has been reported due to: infectious diseases, high incidence of brain injury, and genetic syndromes. It has been estimated that in many of these developing countries, the majority of patients are under-treated with anti-seizure drugs due to insufficient resources, low numbers of medical professionals, and avoidance due to stigma. While epilepsy is widespread in the developing world and there are numerous regions in need of relief, Mfuwe in the Eastern Province of Zambia was selected as our focus area because a group of local healthcare providers reached out to us to collaborate in an effort to reduce stigma and combat the substantially high rates and large diagnosis and treatment gaps in in their region.

 
 
 
 

Research Summary

Dr. Gerben van Hameren gives an overview of the research we conduct in the BBB Labs.