A new technique for quickly diagnosing and monitoring diseases of blood vessels in the brain such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, non-convulsive epileptic seizure-like activity and head injuries as well as various psychiatric conditions has been developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Beersheba.
The method, based on analysis of electro-encephalograph (EEG) patterns of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, was first published in 2019 in Science Translational Medicine Journal under the title “Paroxysmal slow cortical activity in Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy is associated with blood-brain barrier dysfunction.” The technology paves the way to optimize personal treatments given to patients and to help assess the efficacy of new drug under development
Invented by Dr. Dan Milikovsky and Prof. Alon Friedman of BGU’s Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, the novel method is based on analysis of EEG patterns using proprietary algorithms that they developed.
“The blood-brain barrier (BBB) regulates the communication between the vasculature [blood vessels] and the brain,” they wrote. “Aging and neurological disorders have been associated with BBB defects. Now, we have studied the consequences of BBB impairments in aging and disease.” They studied epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease in both aging mice and human patients.
BBB impairments were spatially associated with transient electroencephalographic abnormalities. A growing body of evidence shows that epileptic activity is frequent but often undiagnosed in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and has major therapeutic implications.
This abnormal activity reflects pathological changes in dysfunction of the brain blood vessels, which contribute, according to recent studies, to the development of various neurodegenerative and other neuro-psychiatric disorders.
“Since dysfunction of the BBB is also a key component in the pathogenesis of epilepsy, we hypothesized that BBB dysfunction in Alzheimer’s patients would also trigger abnormal brain activity that could be detected by EEG,” explained Friedman. “Indeed, we find abnormal, epileptic-like EEG recordings in many patients with Alzheimer’s disease as well as epilepsy, which reflect brain blood vessel pathology and can serve both for diagnosis as well as a therapeutic target.”
After successful testing on animal models and dozens of patients, it was validated on large databases of the EEG records of thousands of patients.
The new approach for diagnosing neurological conditions based on analysis of changes of blood vessels in the brain can be valuable for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions, at the stage when treatment can still slow down disease progression.
“The technology offers a biomarker for immediate results and allows for the continuous monitoring of the progression of the neurological condition and response to treatment,” said Josh Peleg, chief executive officer of BGN Technologies, the university’s technology transfer authority. “We are now seeking a potential industry partner for the further development of this promising method for a variety of applications, from monitoring of intensive-care-unit patients, to patients after stroke and head injuries and for the diagnosis of vascular pathology in early Alzheimer’s disease.”