Muscle degeneration and confinement to a wheelchair are the hallmarks of Lou Gehrig's disease, Parkinson's, muscular dystrophy and other neurodegenerative diseases. One of the silent, and most serious, symptoms of these diseases is losing the ability to swallow.
Swallowing impairment, or dysphagia, affects about 500,000 people annually in the U.S., but little is known about the disorder and only a few temporary, behavioral treatments are available. Now, a University of Missouri researcher is developing a test that might help pinpoint the neurological or physiological origins of swallowing disorders, leading to possible life-saving treatments.
"A lot of these diseases attack the limbs, but you don't die because your limbs don't work," said Teresa Lever, assistant professor in department of Communication Science and Disorders at the MU School of Health Professions. "Even though we can give patients feeding tubes with all the nutrients they need, there is no cure for swallowing disorders associated with neurodegenerative diseases, and patients still die early. I am trying to determine what is driving that mortality. If it is swallowing impairment, we need to know how the impairment starts and how we could treat it successfully, which would then improve patients' lifespan and quality of life."
Lever is trying to determine which components of the nervous system that control swallowing are impaired in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. To swallow, the brain must first sense the need to swallow, and then it must activate the right muscles to complete the process. In her study, she is developing an electrophysiological technique for use with mouse models of human neurological diseases that will show which regions of the brain are being used to swallow and which are short-circuiting. After finding which regions of the brain are not working correctly for each disease, treatments, such as stem cell therapy, gene therapy or certain medications, might be used to target those regions. The first disease that she is focusing on is Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS.
"Instead of just treating a behavior, I am trying to determine the source of that behavior," Lever said. "Swallowing is a reflex – you sense the need to swallow and then you have a muscular response. If we find that the sensory component of the swallowing reflex is being impaired along with the neuromuscular component, then many of these neurological diseases may be much more complex than we have been led to believe. It would tell us that our evaluation and treatment of swallowing disorders should not just focus on the muscles and the nerves that stimulate them, but also on the sensory input. It would really create a paradigm shift in the research, especially for ALS which is classified as a motor neuron disease."
Lever recently received a $300,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health for the study. She said that testing will begin in July and expects substantial results in the next two to three years.
Lever's research has been published in the journal Dysphagia.
Christian Basi | EurekAlert!
Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University
The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy