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About Sickkids
About SickKids

November 13, 2013

SickKids researchers receive funds to develop treatment for brain diseases and disorders

By Anne Coffey and Erin Collett

Researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) are among recipients of Multi-Investigator Research Initiative (MIRI) grants which support funding for research projects aimed at improving our understanding of nervous system function and dysfunction, and its impact on health.

Brain Canada announced this week the five research teams, including two projects at SickKids, who will each receive the funding of $1.5 million over three years.

One of the SickKids projects, led by Dr. Roman Melnyk, Scientist, Molecular Structure & Function with the Research Institute at SickKids, aims to help restore normal neurological function to those suffering from brain disorders. Melnyk’s team is working on a transformative project to replace defective or absent proteins of the brain. Delivering proteins to treat brain disorders is difficult because the brain is shielded from the rest of the circulation by a biological barrier called the blood-brain-barrier (BBB). This barrier prevents drugs from reaching targeted areas in the brain. This project is developing a safe and non-invasive way to ferry drugs across the BBB, by attaching them to a carrier molecule that can safely enter the brain.  This will allow the delivery of curative doses of proteins and into cells for brain-targeted replacement therapy.

The second SickKids research project is led by Dr. James Drake, Chief Neurosurgeon and Senior Associate Scientist, Neurosciences & Mental Health at SickKids. Drake and his team of neuroscientists and engineers from SickKids, the University of Toronto, University Health Network and Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute have joined together to develop a novel non-invasive treatment of paediatric neurological disorders using MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS). MRgFUS allows clinicians to perform “incision-less” surgery by using focusing ultrasound energy through the skull to a specific point for heating and mechanical disruption.  Specifically, Drake’s project provides a non-invasive treatment for two complex conditions, bloods clots in premature babies and drug resistant epileptic seizures.

Both SickKids research teams were recommended for funding following the 2012 MIRI competition.

Read more about the MIRI grants and this year’s recipients.