DOD funds first human trial of device to improve brain’s natural cleaning system


The US Department of Defense is funding the first human trial of a device to speed up and improve the brain’s natural cleansing system that occurs when we sleep.

The trial will be conducted with 90 people at three trial sites: the University of North Carolina, the University of Washington School of Medicine, and a collaboration between Oregon Health & Science University and the Brain Electrophysiology Laboratory (BEL). The results are expected in the fall of 2022.

Recent findings highlight the importance of quality sleep for the removal of metabolic waste products from the brain through the newly discovered brain lymphatic system. If sleep is disrupted, so are these crucial processes, leading to cognitive impairment – things like poor motor coordination, attention deficits, slower processing speed, decreased grip skills. decision and impaired short-term memory, in addition to an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease. later in life.

These issues can have life or death consequences for members of the U.S. military, which is why the Department of Defense is funding innovative research initiatives, including this $ 4.3 million, three-year project. with the ultimate goal of helping service members overcome acute sleep deprivation and chronic sleep restriction.

Scientists leading this effort are from UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Washington School of Medicine, the Brain Electrophysiology Lab Oregon Health & Science University, and Montana State University.

Our approach is to continue to validate new approaches to imaging the human lymphatic system while evaluating new technology to improve glymphatic clearance and cognitive function. If it works, it would have major implications for the military and potentially anyone with diagnosed sleep dysfunction. It could also have implications for people with other neurological conditions, such as traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. “

Dawn Kernagis, PhD, co-principal investigator, assistant professor of neurosurgery at the UNC School of Medicine

This project, titled “Augmented Neurophysiology of Sleep and Performance Readiness”, is part of the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium, a collaboration between industry and academia to facilitate research and development activities, in cooperation with the US Army Medical Research and Development Command and other departments. Defense agencies in the biomedical sciences to protect, treat and optimize the health and performance of military personnel.

This effort spanned years, starting with the discovery of the glymphatic system by co-principal investigator Jeffrey Iliff, PhD and Maiken Nedergaard, MD. In 2013, Scientific journal called it one of the top 10 discoveries of the year.

Iliff, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and neurology at Washington University School of Medicine, said biology is simple. The cerebrospinal fluid surrounds the brain and, while we sleep, the fluid passes through the brain cells and promotes the elimination of various wastes. Iliff’s TED Talk on this process has been viewed over 5 million times.

Scientists believe that this glymphatic function is at the heart of the restorative power of sleep. And so, scientists believe disrupting sleep disrupts the glymphatic system, impairing cognition and potentially long-term brain health.

“Improving glymphatic function, either pharmacologically or by means of a device, could improve the cognitive effects of acute sleep deprivation and chronic sleep restriction,” said Iliff. “Our lab’s research over the past eight years into brain waste disposal in animals has helped define glymphatic biology. Now we hope to see if we can use what we’ve learned to help people overcome poor or interrupted sleep and subsequent brain dysfunction.

The technology proposed to improve glymphatic function is called the Augmented Neural Oscillation Driver or ‘AugNOD’, an easy-to-use wireless electroencephalography (EEG) / transcranial electrical stimulation combo headband that can be applied before sleep to monitor and improve blood flow. slow wave sleep. and glymphatic clearance. The project’s co-principal investigator, Don Tucker, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon and CEO of BEL, created the technology.

The research team also developed and validated an imaging and analysis system, including the use of magnetic resonance imaging to measure glymphatic fluid exchange when individuals receive an IV containing contrast agents. The new study will validate new imaging approaches developed at Washington University School of Medicine that do not require contrast agents. Through comprehensive modeling conducted at the University of Montana, the team will also be able to capture long-range fluid transport and diffusion in the brain, as well as pressure changes in the brain’s blood vessels; both are closely related to the function of the glymphatic pathway.

“Beyond evaluating the potential technology to improve glymphatic function, the resulting imaging and modeling approaches that will be validated in this study could have an incredible impact for the fields of neuroscience and neurology research being given the limited options to study a potentially critical short- and long-term brain health system, ”Kernagis said.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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