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Restorative Medicine
Houston Methodist, Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine Design Noninvasive Tech to Help Remove Brain’s Metabolic Waste
Houston Methodist, Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine Design Noninvasive Tech to Help Remove Brain’s Metabolic Waste
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Houston Methodist researchers have partnered with colleagues at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine to develop a “sleeping cap” that can analyze and stimulate the proper flow of cerebrospinal fluid to “cleanse” the brain and thus amplify the restorative function of sleep. For this research, the U.S. Army has awarded the group $2.8 million, the first installment of a multiyear grant, through the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium.
Cerebrospinal fluid flows through the brain glymphatic system to flush out misfolded proteins and other biochemical waste, a process first described only in the past decade. This glymphatic flow increases during sleep. By stimulating glymphatic flow, one can accelerate and improve brain “cleansing,” enhance restorative properties of sleep and boost brain function. According to the researchers, the standard method to determine cerebrospinal fluid flow in the brain is through magnetic resonance imaging, which requires heavy, difficult-to-transport equipment. Hence, developing technology that is small and portable has been of great interest, particularly for the Army.
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Gavin W. Britz, MD, MPH, MBA, FAANS
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Angelique Regnier-Golanov, PhD 
“This unprecedented collaboration will not only give us more ideas for helping our soldiers in the field but also provide the spark for investigating and treating all brain diseases quickly and in real time,” said Gavin W. Britz, MD, MPH, MBA, FAANS, the Candy and Tom Knudson Centennial Chair in Neurosurgery and director of the Neurological Institute. “This will crack open a new field of gathering brain data noninvasively, and it’s never been done before.”
Along with Britz, Eugene Golanov, MD, PhD, professor of research and senior scientist Angelique Regnier-Golanov, PhD, will also be part of the efforts at Houston Methodist.
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Houston Methodist and Baylor scientists are collaborating with Rice engineers to develop and validate this original technology in healthy volunteers and patients. They expect the final device to combine and analyze multiple streams of various physiological signals through machine-learning software. The merged data will eventually help clinicians get a real-time picture of how well the brain is clearing itself. Various techniques such as ultrasound and electromagnetic stimulation will be used to amplify glymphatic flow and thus improve sleep efficiency in civilian and military populations.
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