WashU scientist gets grant to further research on hydrocephalus

Two researchers at WashU received grants to help better understand hydrocephalus, which is a build-up of fluid in the brain.
Published: Mar. 4, 2023 at 6:25 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Two researchers at WashU received grants to help better understand hydrocephalus, which is a build-up of fluid in the brain.

Professor of neurosurgery Dr. Gabriel Haller is one of them and his research is focusing on finding out what leads to this build-up, largely in pre-mature babies.

“Which kids are more likely to develop hydrocephalus given that they’re premature and potentially by understanding those mechanisms, we can potentially develop new methods of treating the disorder that aren’t surgical, which is the only current treatment method,” Dr. Haller says.

The grant will fund his research into improving the screening and diagnosis of hydrocephalus by identifying the causes and processes that lead to hydrocephalus.

Dr. Haller says currently the only treatment for hydrocephalus is brain surgery, where they put in a shunt.

His research includes improving ways of diagnosing and screening for hydrocephalus to allow for earlier detection of the condition and developing ways to accurately determine if a patient would benefit from hydrocephalus treatment, such as shunt, prior to surgery. Part of his research is also looking into potential options for drug therapy instead.

“Being able to predict which kids will go on to get hydrocephalus means that you can screen them earlier and potentially treat them earlier so the damage that can potentially be done by hydrocephalus can be mitigated,” Dr. Haller says.

The $50,000 grant is funded by the Hydrocephalus Association.

President and CEO Diana Gray says one in 770 babies will be born with hydrocephalus each year in the country.

“It’s devastating for families to find out their baby has this condition and that it’s gonna require brain surgery and a shunt is placed,” Gray says. “There’s another procedure they can do that’s more of a natural shunt but those procedures can fail and you can get an infection in that shunt or you can get a blockage in that shunt and that can require another surgery and then another.”

Gray says funding research into other solutions is key.

However, it’s also about educating people on what hydrocephalus is.

Gray says there’s a large number of elderly people who get misdiagnosed.

“Maybe get diagnosed as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s because they have a gait problem and they have dementia and they also have urinary incontinence oftentimes and so they get put in a bucket of one of those conditions and they never get tested or have an MRI to see if it could be hydrocephalus, which in the early stages could be treatable,” Gray says.