I love it when two entities compete and I win either way. The two entities have been arch rivals on the football field and in academics, and now they’re competing in…(drum roll please)….neurological research! The two entities are the University of Washington (UW), here in Seattle, and, way over in the wheat fields on eastern Washington, Washington State University (WSU). If you want to sound like a local, U-Dub vs. Wazzu.
I spotted a news article about UW’s progress in creating an implantable brain device to enable paralyzed people to move their limbs. Well, not much progress yet — they hope to have something for human trials in……eight to ten years. But the jawbreaker-named “Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering” at UW will receive $16 million from the National Science Foundation over the next four years to carry out research. Implantable brain devices are the mechanism for Deep Brain Stimulation, a surgery used to reduce the dyskinesias (tremors and odd movements) from Parkinson’s. DBS has been around for some 20 years but it’s not a cure, just symptomatic relief — for five years or so. The DBS devices work as a sort of pacemaker on neurons, while the UW devices funded by NSF intend to pick up brain signals (“move my arm” for a stroke victim, “don’t move my arm” for a Parky) and direct them around damaged parts of the brain. The UW Center is also partnering with Medtronic, an industry leader in manufacturing DBS devices, on a next-generation brain stimulation device. Go Huskies!
So what’s happening with the Cougs at WSU? I saw a fund raising ad for WSU headlined “Alzheimer’s Cases will triple by 2050. WSU professors are closing in on a cure.” Pretty bold stuff for a university without a medical school. The ad copy mentions WSU scientists Joe Harding and Jay (John) Wright, co-inventors of a drug that promotes the growth of new neurons. The ad also mentions Leen Kawas, a former WSU grad student who now heads up M3 Biotechnology. This Seattle-based startup will be taking the new drug (with the sexy name of MM-201) into clinical trials. I don’t see a target date for trials to start….soon, I hope. Michael J. Fox Foundation is a partner, which is good news since MJFF has a reputation of getting things done. Go Cougars!