Researcher looking through microscope

Research

Our commitment to research in the Department of Neurology dates back to the origins of the Department at The University of Chicago, which was established in 1974 with Barry G.W. Arnason MD serving as our first Chairman. Strong research programs in neuroimmunology, neuromuscular disease and neurovirology provided the initial foundation and brought national recognition. Important research programs in cerebrovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, epilepsy and peripheral nerve disease have been added and strengthened over the subsequent years. Approaches to research have similarly diversified and span from laboratory based basic science investigations to patient based clinical trial studies. Our research approaches cover the spectrum that in recent years came to be known as Translational Neuroscience Research.

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Research Programs

Leading the Advancement of Brain & Spinal Cord Tumor Treatment

At the Brain Tumor Center, our treatment strategies are guided by innovative research conducted at UChicago Medicine. Our scientists are helping build critical foundations for future advancements in the treatment of brain and spinal cord tumors. 

Through our basic research program, UChicago Medicine scientists investigate the underlying mechanisms involved in how brain and spinal cord tumors develop, survive and spread. Collaborative initiatives with the UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center aim to substantially advance the treatment and prevention of brain and spinal cord metastases. This scientific research is supported by numerous grants, including a $90 million grant supporting the Ludwig Center for Metastases Research
 

Access to Innovative Clinical Trials

UChicago Medicine researchers are conducting clinical research focused on brain and spinal cord tumors. Our Comprehensive Cancer Center offers access to the entire range of Phase I, II, and III clinical trials supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for newly-diagnosed and progressive gliomas, as well as brain metastases. 

In addition to national trials supported by the NIH, we also conduct industry- and investigator-sponsored clinical trials. These studies involve a range of treatments including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy and vaccines. Your doctor can help you decide whether a clinical trial is right for you.

For More Information Visit:  UChicago Medicine Brain and Spinal Cord Tumor

We never stop looking for innovative ways to treat neurovascular conditions. Our physicians are members of national research groups, collaborating with experts from across the country to offer leading-edge treatments and promising clinical trials.

Researchers in the Department of Neurology, Section of Neurosurgery, Section of Neuroradiology and other departments at The University of Chicago focus on a range of issues from basic mechanisms of ischemic neuronal death to mechanisms of neurorepair.

V. Leo Towle PhD has focussed his research to utilize functional MRI, direct electrophysiologic cortical recordings obtained during surgery, and noninvasive human cerebral evoked potentials as tools for understanding the functional organization of the human neocortex. A primary focus is to relate electrophysiologic findings to specific brain areas which can be imaged with MRI. The non-invasive electrophysiologic findings are compared to histology, intraoperative cortical mapping studies and parallel noninvasive functional MRI findings. Currently investigations involve the accuracy of dipole models, ECOG patterns, and the development and lateralization of language in epileptic and normal subjects using function MRI. This research has both practical value for neurosurgical procedures and theoretical implications for theories of brain organization and development. Dr. Towle has also studied cognitive event-related potentials as they relate to sensory and cognitive dysfunction in multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke and renal disease patients participating in drug trials.

The Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at the University of Chicago Medicine is at the forefront of epilepsy care. Many of our patients come to us after trying a number of different medications and therapies with little success.

Leading Advancements in Epilepsy Care

Backed by the development of groundbreaking diagnostic techniques and a long history of research, our expert team has the experience to manage nearly all epilepsy-related problems from new onset seizures to rare and difficult-to-treat epileptic syndromes. With non-invasive technology and contemporary diagnostic techniques, we can pinpoint the origin of most seizures with precision. Having this advantage can significantly increase diagnostic accuracy and improve patient outcomes.

James Tao MD PhD is interested in determining the cerebral substrates of scalp EEG epileptiform patterns, in order to improve the accuracy of non-invasive seizure localization during epilepsy surgery. His long-term interests include investigations of the mechanisms of epileptogenesis and of new modalities of epilepsy therapy. Current projects include:

  • The impact of cerebral source area and synchrony on recording scalp EEG ictal patterns; and
  • The pathophysiology of interictal temporal delta activity (ITDA) and its value in localizing epileptogenic zone.

His long term goals are to investigate the electrophysiological behavior of cerebral epileptogenic networks and the mechanism of epileptogenesis at the neural network level in order to identify new preventive and therapeutic modalities.

Wim Van Drongelen PhD (Department of Pediatrics) has focussed his research on the long-range goal of optimizing therapeutic intervention in pediatric epilepsy by improved spatial and temporal localization of seizure activity and examining the underlying mechanisms in the pathogenesis of seizures. His research focuses on:

  • Underlying neuronal mechanisms in epilepsy (synchrony, recruitment, oscillation, weak coupling);
  • Relationships between neuronal activity at different scales (neuron, network, brain);
  • Detection and prediction of brain electrical activity during seizures using various signal processing techniques (correlation dimension, Kolmogorov entropy, wavelet analysis);
  • Localization of sources from surface recordings (dipole analysis, MUSIC, LORETA, spatial filtering); and
  • Monitoring of the nervous system in the intensive care environment (EEG, evoked potential)

For More Information on Epilepsy Visit: UChicago Medicine Epilepsy and Seizures

Betty Soliven MD is interested in CNS and peripheral nerve demyelinating diseases. One area of research concerns immune mechanisms that underlie peripheral nervous system demyelination. She is studying s line of the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse that was genetically engineered to be deficient in the major histocompatability complex gene product, B7.2. Dr. Soliven and colleagues found that these mice do not develop diabetes, but instead develop a progressive autoimmune polyneuropathy (SAP), with electrophysiologic and histologic features resembling chronic immune demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP). This model is unique in that, in the absence of B7.2, there is a shift from one autoimmune disease (type 1 diabetes) to another (SAP). Dr. Soliven’s group is using this model to investigate the link between islet cell and peripheral nervous system autoimmunity in order to characterize pertinent antigen/s that elicit T cell and possibly B cell reactivity, and to examine the effect of new drugs or therapeutic approaches for the treatment of inflammatory neuropathies.

Dr. Soliven’s group is also interested in signal transduction mechanisms in oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells. They have studied the role of different potassium channel subtypes in oligodendroglial (OLG) regeneration and recovery from demyelination. Her group is also studying autocrine signaling of glial-derived neurotrophic factor in Schwann cells and the effect of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) receptor modulators, and AT motif-binding factor 1 in cell cycle control in oligodendrocytes. Finally, Dr. Soliven directs a significant effort in training fellows to assist several investigators at The University of Chicago in the electrophysiological characterization of peripheral nervous system function in novel mouse mutants which are models for human neurological disease.

Neurologists at UChicago Medicine are always studying new ways to diagnose and treat multiple sclerosis, and have consistently been at the forefront of advancements in autoimmune diseases. In 1993, our researchers helped develop and test interferon, the first FDA-approved treatment for multiple sclerosis. This disease-modifying therapy reduces exacerbations, improves function and memory and lowers death rates. In the past two decades, several new medications have been approved for relapsing and progressive disease. In addition to offering these therapies, our neurologists are directly involved in ongoing clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of the next generation of multiple sclerosis medications and diagnostic tools.

Translating MS Research from 'Bench to Bedside'

Our specialists are dedicated to translating biomedical discoveries from laboratory findings to innovative therapies. Because the physicians at the UChicago Medicine Multiple Sclerosis Clinic are the same research scientists leading the search for a cure, they bring a unique understanding of complex treatments to patient care. In addition to having access to the latest medications, they understand which treatment option is best for each course of MS and, through a personalized approach to care, can identify the best therapy for each patient.

Barry G.W. Arnason MD focuses his reseach interests on understanding the interplay between the immune and nervous systems. Insights from both in vitro and in vivo models studied in his lab have contributed to our understanding of the disease mechanisms underlying T cell and B cell autoimmune syndromes of the nervous system as exemplified by multiple sclerosis (MS) and myasthenia gravis. The role of interferons, in particular the role of interferon-B, in moderating disease pathogenesis in MS has been an ongoing research effort of the group. Interferons are cytokines secreted by many cell types that possess immuno-modulatory activity. A second interest of the lab is examining the role of CD8+ suppressor T cells in modulating immune activation. Whereas activating Th1-type CD4+ T cells are widely recognized as a critical lymphocyte population for disease pathogenesis in MS, CD8+ suppressor T cells can down-regulate the activity of the Th1-type CD4+ T cell. Despite the critical role of T cells in MS pathogenesis, macrophages are the final vectors of tissue destruction in MS. Upon infiltrating the CNS, activated T cells secrete cytokines which in turn recruit activated macrophages resulting in tissue destruction. Recent efforts in the lab have focused on the development of immunomodulatory agents that have the potential to transform activated, pro-inflammatory macrophages to a more protective type.

Anthony Reder MD has focused his research on the interaction between the central nervous system and the immune system; Dr. Reder is investigating expression of lymphocyte surface molecules necessary for immune activation, and also regulation of cytokine and interferon (IFN) genes after IFN-beta activation. Dr. Reder, with Dr. Xuan Feng, and Dr. Reder’s group have recently found an increase in the B7 costimulatory molecule on lymphocytes in active MS, which was corrected by IFN therapy as well as a specific defect in IFN signaling during active MS. His group also studies experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of MS. The lab has also studied regulation of killer T cell killing of astrocytes by using hormones and lymphokines to modify astrocyte glial surface antigens and secretion of cytokines.

Brian Popko PhD has a long-standing interest in the effects that CNS inflammation, a key aspect of MS, has on oligodendrocytes and myelin. He has used in vitro and in vivo models to show that the inflammatory response has a direct deleterious effect on oligodendrocytes. The underlying hypothesis of his work is that myelinating oligodendrocytes, because of their need to synthesize enormous amounts of membrane lipids and proteins, are particularly sensitive to disruptions in the protein secretory pathway. Researchers in his lab have reported that the deleterious effects of the inflammatory response on developmental myelination and the remyelination of demyelinated lesions are associated with the activation of the ER stress pathway in oligodendrocytes. His goal, in understanding the ER stress pathway, is to enable the identification of therapeutics that may protect oligodendrocytes and their adult progenitors from the harsh CNS environment present in MS patients.

See a list of our current multiple sclerosis clinical trials

Meet the MS Team

For More Information on Multiple Sclerosis Visit: UChicago Medicine Multiple Sclerosis

The primary thrust of the NeuroCritical Care Program is clinical and educational. However, we are seriously committed to provocative scholarly projects dedicated to advancing our field. While our portfolio of projects is highly dynamic, our primary areas of present activity are listed in the following sections. Since the neurocritical care program is organizationally linked to the vascular neurology program, reference is made to the research delineated in the cerebrovascular section for further information about additional  research on ischemic stroke (laboratory and clinical).For prospective trainees, there are two additional points to emphasize. We embrace working with medical students and residents, and many of the projects below have included trainees both in project design, formal presentation at national/international conferences, and manuscript preparation. In addition, these projects are derived from the present faculty in our section, and we are presently recruiting a third faculty who will bring additional areas of interest to our research endeavors, particularly in the laboratory.

For More Information Visit:  UChicago Medicine Stroke and Neurovascular Care

Investigational Treatments for Movement Disorders

At the University of Chicago Medicine, our patients are the first to benefit from leading research to find better treatments for movement disorders. We are designated as a Center for Advanced Research by the American Parkinson Disease Association for our excellence in state-of-the-art patient care and quest to find improved therapies through high-level research.

Our physicians are investigating movement disorders at the molecular level to identify precise causes of these diseases. They conduct clinical trials, regularly publish findings and serve as editors and on editorial boards of respected medical journals.

Sharing knowledge with institutions throughout the world, our physician-scientists work with grant-funded studies, including support from the National Institutes of Health, Michael J. Fox Foundation, and Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, among other organizations.

A growing team of neuroscientists, recruited to the Department of Neurology or Neurobiology have joined efforts to form the Center for Neurodegenerative diseases and Repair. Nationally-recognized researchers in the molecular pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, prion diseases, and spinocerebellar ataxia benefit from the synergy of complementary research platforms and methodologies, insights of overlapping disease mechanisms and therapeutic strategies.

For More Information Visit:  UChicago Medicine Movement Disorder's

Overview:

The University of Chicago Neuromuscular Program provides an outstanding opportunity for patients to benefit from cutting-edge treatments and for trainees to learn basic research and clinical details related to neuromuscular diseases. The Program has a menu of offerings including: specialized clinics, sophisticated neurophysiology laboratory testing, ground-breaking research, and clinical trials in neuromuscular diseases. Having trained more than 50 clinical and research fellows as well as many residents, the neuromuscular disease team is committed to mentoring the next generation of neuromuscular experts.  

Neurophysiology Laboratory Testing:

The University of Chicago EMG Laboratory (Director: Betty Soliven, MD) provides an active electrodiagnostic service for approximately 1,400 patients per year. Other EMG attendings include Helene Rubeiz, MD, Kourosh Rezania, MD.  Additional personnel involved in the Neurophysiology Laboratory include: an EMG fellow, a combined EEG/EMG fellow, a resident rotating in the laboratory, and EMG technician/s. For appointments call (773) 702-1780.

Our neuromuscular pathology service is overseen by Peter Pytel, MD, who evaluates muscle and nerve biopsies from our patients and those sent from a large number of hospitals in Illinois and Midwest areas.

 
Basic Research:

Basic research on Neuromuscular Diseases at The University of Chicago includes:

  1. Delineation of viral and non-viral (mutant SOD-1) genes and proteins critical to the death and survival of motor neurons and the pathogenesis of ALS (Raymond Roos, MD);
  2. Delineation of genes important for peripheral nerve development and degeneration (Brian Popko, PhD);
  3. Pathogenetic mechanisms in inflammatory neuropathies and myasthenia (Betty Soliven, MD);
  4. Congenital myasthenia and channelopathies (Christopher Gomez, MD PhD).

Clinical Research & trials:

PI-initiated studies:

  1. Intermuscular coherence as a biomarker for upper motor neuron involvement in ALS (co-PIs: Kourosh Rezania, MD, Naoum Issa, MD, PhD)
  2. Immunologic studies in myasthenia and autoimmune neuropathies (PI: Betty Soliven, MD)

Clinical trials (ongoing):

A Phase 3, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Multicenter Study to Evaluate the Safety and Efficacy of Ravulizumab in Complement-Inhibitor-Naïve Adult Patients With Generalized Myasthenia Gravis.

PI: Betty Soliven, MD

Sponsor: Alexion Pharma

Study coordinator: Usman Alvi

Status:  enrollment to be started soon

Upcoming clinical trials:

A Phase 3, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled study evaluating efficacy and safety of rozanolixizumab in adult patients with generalized myasthenia gravis.

PI: Kourosh Rezania, MD

Sponsor: UCB Biopharma SPRL

Study coordinator: Usman Alvi

Status: pending

Closed Clinical Trials:

Effects of Oral levosimendan (ODM-109) on respiratory function in patients with ALS

PI: Kourosh Rezania, MD

Sponsor: Orion Pharma

Study coordinator: Usman Alvi

in patients with ALS

Status: enrollment stopped

Teaching Activities:

The neuromuscular educational program consists of:

  1. Lectures on neuromuscular diseases and electromyography
  2. Monthly Neuromuscular Pathology Conference
  3. Teaching in the neuromuscular clinics
  4. Training in the performance of nerve conduction studies and electromyography as well as interpretation of these studies during a rotation in the EMG laboratory
  5. Annual EMG self assessment examination
  6. Neurobiology of Disease Course
  7. Neuromuscular Vignettes:https://voices.uchicago.edu/neuromuscularcasevignettes1/
  8. Presentations: link to recent bootcamp and Neuromuscular conference presentations

Meet the Neuromuscular Team

To apply for clinical neurophysiology fellowship (EMG/Neuromuscular track), visit our Clinical Neurophysiology Fellowship page, contact Betty Soliven, MD or our Education Coordinator, Marla Scofield.

Useful Links:

ALSA Chicago Chapter website: http://webchicago.alsa.org/site/PageServer?pagename=CHI_homepage

  1. Conquer MG website: https://www.myastheniagravis.org/
  2. GBS/CIDP Foundation International website: https://www.gbs-cidp.org/
  3. University of Chicago Center for Peripheral Neuropathy Website: http://peripheralneuropathycenter.uchicago.edu/

Make a Gift

Charitable gifts to the Neuromuscular Disorders Program provide critical support for innovative research as well as new and advanced patient care and services. Your support enables us to advance promising new research and treatment programs, train future generations of physicians and scientists, expand vital support services and share our knowledge with the community.

If you would like to make a donation for this purpose, please make your check payable to:  University of Chicago and enclose a letter stating: "the donation is a gift to be used for the Neuromuscular Program at University of Chicago", or “the donation is a gift to be used for Dr.XXX’s research.

Please mail donations to:

The University of Chicago

Gift Administration and Business Data

5235 S. Harper Court, 4th Floor

Chicago, IL 60615

You may also make an online gift via our secure site:  

https://givetomedicine.uchicago.edu/give/ways-to-give

For questions about giving, please contact:
Phone: 773.702.6565
 

University of Chicago is a non-profit organization and gifts are tax deductible.

Raymond Roos, MD

Raymond Roos MD is investigating Theiler’s virus (TV), a mouse picornavirus that produces interesting neurological disease phenotypes. Certain strains from one TV subgroup produce a chronic persistent infection in mice in which autoimmune factors mediate a demyelinating disease. The demyelination caused by these strains provides one of the best experimental models for MS because of the similarity in their pathology and because the immune system appears to contribute to disease in both cases. Other strains from a second TV subgroup cause a motor neuron disease. The Roos lab is investigating Theiler's virus (TV)-induced disease in order to identify molecular determinants for demyelination and neurovirulence and the mechanisms involved. The basic aim is to define molecular determinants for the virus' biological behavior. The TV model is an especially valuable one for these studies because of the powerful molecular tools that are available, the interesting phenotypes of the strains, and the ease with which one can study this simple virus in a mouse (including various mouse mutant strains). With this goal in mind, the Roos lab has produced infectious cDNA clones from strains of the two different subgroups and generated recombinant and mutated viruses. The identification of the virus genes may not only clarify the pathogenesis of TV disease, but also lead to an understanding of genes important in the normal CNS and in human CNS disease states (such as MS and motor neuron disease).

Brian Popko, PhD

Brian Popko PhD has had a long-standing interest in the glial cells that are responsible for the formation of the myelin sheath. Over the past two decades his studies have contributed to our understanding of a number of myelin-specific proteins and lipids that play critical roles in myelin formation and maintenance, as well as in the development of the myelinating cells. These studies use a variety of molecular genetic approaches, including cell culture and mouse models.

samples in vials

Clinical Trials

The Department of Neurology is actively involved in clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of new treatments for neurological condidtions including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, stroke and neuromuscular diseases and disorders. If you are interested in receiving additional information or participating in a trial, please e-mail or call the persons listed below. Please note that enrollment is currently closed for some of the trials.

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Research Resources