GliaSound

GENERATOR FUND

Awarded: 2021

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Philip Regan (PI)
University of Bristol: Daniel Whitcomb
University of Exeter: Jonathon Witton

Project overview

Investigating the potential of ultrasound stimulation as a regulator of neuroimmune function.

Background

Our society is aging, and with it, an increasing prevalence of age-related health implications is adversely affecting population wellbeing. The brain is, arguably, the most affected and least treatable biological target of aging. As we age, cumulative risk factors contribute to the deterioration of brain health that can manifest in progressive cognitive impairment and increasingly, severe neurodegenerative diseases.

Neuroimmune signalling describes the complex interplay between cells in the brain that ordinarily serves to maintain brain health but, during aging and risk factor exposure, can become compromised to accelerate brain decline and disease progression. Data from recent studies hold promise that neuroimmune signalling may be modifiable by non-invasive brain stimulation techniques, such as ultrasound stimulation, which is emerging as a possible solution to combat neurodegeneration. The clinical success of ultrasound stimulation will ultimately be governed by knowing how, when and where in the brain to stimulate in order to effectively modulate neural function. Our regional research collaboration will enable unprecedented characterisation of ultrasound effects on neuroimmune signalling, ranging from the single-cell level to brain network analysis.

It is the vision of our GW4 community, together with current and future academic and industrial collaborators, to ultimately create meaningful impact through rational design of innovative cutting-edge ultrasonic brain therapeutics aimed at promoting healthy aging in our society.

Project summary

The community carried out experiments to examine and characterise the modulation of microglia and neuroimmune function by ultrasound stimulation (US). Working in three labs across Bath, Bristol and Exeter, the community were able to transfer knowledge and expertise between labs; using a multidisciplinary approach to address their research goals. The community secured a 1-year pilot grant from the charity BRACE to develop the project further, and bring in key collaborators at Cardiff. The community to continue to collaborate, with lab visits and a manuscript in preparation. Following the pilot work, they aim to apply for a larger grant to continue the collaboration.

Community site (GW4 Portal)