Brain Waves: Wency Leung writes: “Dr. Todd Mainprize (RIGHT) performs brain surgery on Bonny Hall, 56, at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre on Nov 6 2015.”
Photo Credit & Source: Fred Lum; The Globe and Mail
In “Sunnybrook doctor first to perform blood-brain barrier procedure using focused ultrasound waves” (November 8, 2015), Leung writes:
Dr. Todd Mainprize leaned over and peered through his wire-rim glasses at a computer screen showing the brain scan of his brain cancer patient, Bonny Hall, who lay in a magnetic resonance imaging machine (MRI) in the adjacent room.
“This has gone exactly the way we hoped,” the neurosurgeon said, crossing his arms.
He smiled and nodded. His experimental procedure had been a success.
Here in the S-wing of Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, Mainprize and his research team accomplished on Thursday what no one in the world has ever done before: Using focused ultrasound waves, they have opened the human blood-brain barrier, paving the way for future treatment of an array of currently impossible or hard-to cure-illnesses – from brain cancer to certain forms of depression, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
The blood-brain barrier is an extremely selective filter that Mainprize likens to cling film, which coats the blood vessels in the brain, preventing harmful substances in the bloodstream from passing through. Though its function is to protect the brain, this barrier has limited doctors’ ability to treat diseases, such as tumours, using drugs like chemotherapy to target specific areas of the brain.
By successfully opening the blood-brain barrier, “that will allow us to use many, many more medications in the brain than we can currently use,” said Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, director of physical sciences at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, who developed the technology used in the experimental procedure.
Hynynen said about 98 per cent of molecules that could potentially be used for brain treatments cannot currently be used because they cannot get through the blood-brain barrier. This includes antibodies, which in animal studies have been shown to remove brain plaques involved in Alzheimer’s disease, or stem cells, which could be used to treat stroke patients. Thus, he says, the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier will “revolutionize” brain medicine.Although we have heard this before, over-use of the word “revolutionize,” this procedure sounds as if it will improve the outcomes of some patients who suffer diseases of the brain. What has to also be studied is whether there are any long-term side effects to this procedure, since all procedures have some kind of effect on the human body. The best treatments have little deleterious effects and great positive ones, which improve health and wellness.
For more, go to [G&M]