What Brain Wiring Looks Like

What Brain Wiring Looks Like.

Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) is set to become one of Europe’s top facilities for brain imaging. The new £44M CUBRIC opened on 7th March 2016 and brings together world-leading expertise in brain mapping with the very latest in brain imaging and brain stimulation. The centre plays a pivotal role in the global endeavour to better understand the causes of neurological and psychiatric conditions such as dementia, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis, so as to yield vital clues for the development of better treatments.

Huntington’s Disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disease that effects 4-7 in 10,000 people in the UK. Patients have received their first doses of an experimental RNA targeting drug and CUBRIC celebrates its first clinical trial involvement since opening last June. HD patients underwent their first MRI scans in one of CUBRIC’s Siemens Prisma 3T scanners in March this year. The trial is set to recruit patients with very early symptoms of HD, and CUBRIC is just one of several MRI sites across the UK and Europe who are involved. Ionis Pharmaceuticals has partnered with Roche to develop the experimental drug, IONIS-HT to treat Huntington’s disease. The trial aims to test the safety of the drug which is administered intrathecally, by injection into spinal fluid, to improve its delivery to the brain. This first-in-human drug works by targeting the known cause of the disease: a toxic protein called mutant huntingtin which slowly damages and kills neurons, leading to the progressive and ultimately fatal decline in mental and physical abilities that is the devastating hallmark of Huntington’s disease. This approach has the potential to prevent or slow the progression of this devastating disease. Using MRI, scientists hope to identify subtle changes in brain microstructure and function, called ‘biomarkers’ that may help to inform the design if it rolls out to phase 2 or 3.  To do this, researchers at Cardiff are scanning HD patients at multiple time points over several months, during which they receive multiple doses of the drug. If this first-in-human trial proves that the drug is safe, then Ionis and its partner Roche hope to advance the drug to the next clinical study with the ultimate goal of commercialising the drug. Credit: CUBRIC.

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