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Upstate scientists collaborate on hydrocephalus research

Two scientists at Upstate Medical University are combining efforts on hydrocephalus research. Neurosurgeon Satish Krishnamurthy, MD, and nationally renowned researcher Frank Middleton, PhD, want to determine why some people develop hydrocephalus following an intraventricular hemorrhage, or brain bleed, while others do not. Helping to fund their work is REaCH Organization, a support group that has been raising money for Krishnamurthy’s Hydrocephalus Research Fund at the Upstate Foundation for many years.

Hydrocephalus is a condition that results in abnormal accumulation of fluid in the brain following an intraventricular hemorrhage, which can damage the brain and cause cognitive and physical handicap. Yet only between 20 and 50 percent of patients who experience an intraventricular hemorrhage will develop hydrocephalus, and Krishnamurthy is exploring why and who may be more at risk.

“The amount of blood that the brain has to clear makes a difference, as well as cells in the brain that help remove the blood products like vacuum cleaners,” Krishnamurthy explained. “We’re exploring why some people have cells that function as efficiently as Dyson vacuum cleaners, and others have cells that operate like a generic brand vacuum cleaner.”

The answer, Krishnamurthy said, lies in genes. This is where Middleton, a professor of neuroscience and physiology, comes in, and his lifelong study of genes.

The collaboration with Middleton, which is in its early stages, is part of Krishnamurthy’s mission to find a cure for hydrocephalus that does not involve surgery, which is currently the only available solution to treat the condition.

“This solution would be acceptable if the surgery to place a tube, called a shunt, in the brain to drain the excess fluid into the stomach would solve the problem permanently,” said Krishnamurthy. “However, more often than not, these shunts need to be removed and replaced several times. The need for emergent and unpredictable brain surgeries makes this solution less than desirable.”

His goal is to develop a medication that will replace shunts as the primary means of treating hydrocephalus. This project will help in identifying people who are at risk for developing hydrocephalus.  

REaCH Organization was established in 2010 by Central New York families of people with hydrocephalus; the name is an acronym for Research, Education and Cure Hydrocephalus. Tom Clough is president.

“Dr. Krishnamurthy told us how pleased he is that Dr. Middleton is working with him on his research,” Clough said. “His enthusiasm and determination give us hope for my daughter and others living with hydrocephalus. We have utmost confidence that he will find a cure, and we only wish we could donate more to help him.”

Clough’s daughter, Elyse, was born prematurely at 24 weeks, weighing only one pound, seven ounces. She suffered a massive brain bleed at birth and her prognosis was “horrible,” according to Clough. She was only four months old when she underwent brain surgery and Krishnamurthy inserted her first shunt. At 12, Elyse has had nine surgeries and remains under Krishnamurthy’s care.

To contribute to the Hydrocephalus Research Fund, contact the Upstate Foundation at 315-464-4416, or visit UpstateFoundation.org.


Caption: Satish Krishnamurthy, MD, and Frank Middleton, PhD.