ARLINGTON - A
UT Arlington bioengineer is working to give physicians vital information that
could lead to better therapy for patients afflicted with cerebral palsy.
George Alexandrakis, an assistant professor in bioengineering at The University of Texas at Arlington,
has won a three-year, $1.16 million National Institutes of Health grant that
will use functional near-infrared brain imaging as a tool to help guide the
treatment of children with cerebral palsy. Functional near-infrared brain
imaging measures the neuronal activity from the brain’s surface.
goal is to show what is happening in the brain so that doctors can tell whether
certain types of therapy will work or won’t and that could lead to better
treatment for these children,” Alexandrakis said.
project began when Mauricio Delgado, director of neurology at Texas Scottish
Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, approached UT Arlington with a question.
asked them if they could help me uncover what activation patterns emerge in a
child’s brain as they are undergoing a certain therapy for cerebral palsy,” Dr.
Delgado said. Alexandrakis told Delgado that his team could use functional brain
imaging to measure parts of the brain that “light up” during therapy.
work proposes to image how brain patterns change over the course of months
while patients with cerebral palsy undergo a treatment process called Constraint-Induced
Movement Therapy. This treatment is taxing to the patients as it involves
binding the good arm, forcing them to use the cerebral palsy-afflicted arm. The
procedure is not always productive and can be costly, sometimes approaching
$30,000 to perform on one cerebral palsy patient, researchers said. Therefore,
there is much to be gained from identifying positive responders early into the
two and three of the NIH grant work will take place at Scottish Rite Hospital
and will center on testing the brain imaging device on children with cerebral
palsy in an attempt to identify the hallmark brain activation patterns before
treatment, Alexandrakis said. He added that the patterns then could serve as
predictors of positive outcomes and identify the patients who could benefit
from this type of therapy.
out some more of those factors on why patients do or don’t respond could lead
to better treatment, too,” Alexandrakis said. “Ultimately, we want to
eventually give children with cerebral palsy hope.”
Arlington has three functional near-infrared brain imaging machines. Hanli Liu,
a UT Arlington bioengineering professor and cohort on Alexandrakis’ grant, has
used the machines to develop non-invasive imaging for tumor therapy
monitoring and prognosis.
brain optical imaging device is more portable and is more resistant to patient
motion than traditional magnetic resonance imaging machines – two advantages
when working with children, Alexandrakis said.
Liu, other members of the team include Mario Romero-Ortega, a UT Arlington
associate professor of bioengineering who is an expert in human
neurophysiology; Duncan MacFarlane, a UT Dallas electrical engineering
professor; and Chester Wildey of Arlington-based MRRA Inc., who will provide
technical support with the development of hardware and software needed for the
team will build a brush fiber system as an attachment to the brain optical
imaging device that will deliver light between human hairs into the brain while
simultaneously collecting the light being reflected from the brain’s surface.
The procedure gives clearer images of brain function for researchers and
team also will construct and test a brush-fiber functional near-infrared brain
probe assembly. The device would span the entire head of a patient.
brush fiber technology was established in collaboration with Fillia Makedon,
chair of UT Arlington’s Computer Science and Engineering Department. It was
supported by a $100,000 grant from TxMed, a medical technologies research
consortium whose partners include UT Arlington, UT Dallas, Texas Instruments,
Texas Health Resources, the University of North Texas Health Science Center and
the Center for Innovation, a joint project of UT Arlington and the Arlington
Chamber of Commerce.
also will provide a camera-based motion capture and analysis system to measure hand
and arm motions during the imaging process. That system would be used to study
how different motions make different regions of the brain light up.
brain imaging and cerebral palsy work is representative of the research under
way at The University of Texas at Arlington, a comprehensive research
institution of 33,800 students in the heart of North Texas.
www.uta.edu to learn more.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.