by Mélisande Rouger
Congress highlights and breaking news were presented during the final Plenary Symposium on the fourth and last day of EAN 2023 in Budapest, Hungary.
The session was moderated by EAN President Prof. Paul Boon from Ghent, Belgium, EAN President Elect Prof. Elena Moro from Grenoble, France, and RRFS chairperson Dr Nina Vashchenko from Copenhagen, Denmark.
The session kicked off with the winners of the EAN Tournament Finals. ‘Basic’ winner Prof. Delia Gagliardi from Milan, Italy, who presented her research on ‘3D in vitro models to identify early neuronal vulnerability and test therapies in C9ORF72-Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis’, an untreatable neurodegenerative disorder caused by progressive degeneration of motor neurons.
“Our main hypothesis was that early neuronal vulnerability can cause later onset neurodegeneration,” she said. “We generated human brain organoids (BrOs) and spinal cord organoids (ScOs), which are human 3D in vitro models able to recapitulate the anatomical and functional organisation of the human central nervous system.”
Her research shows that BrOs and ScOs allow the investigation of MOB treatment on key cellular processes and represent ideal tools for drug screening.
The winner of the clinical section of the Tournament Finals, Prof. Abubaker Ibrahim from Innsbruck, Austria, was next up, presenting his work on sleep and long-term incidence neurodegenerative diseases.
The relationship between sleep and neurodegeneration is a growing area of interest, but studies so far have lacked in patient numbers, follow-up time, or have been reliant on indirect or subjective measures to assess sleep, such as self-reporting, which is unable to distinguish the specific sleep stages, he explained.
In his study, Ibrahim used polysomnography, the gold standard to assess sleep, in a large cohort over a long period of time, in order to assess this complex relationship.
“We found that there is a robust association between early changes in sleep architecture and long-term incident neurodegenerative diseases,” he said. “Early changes can be a marker of neurodegeneration or a potential target for neuroprotection.”
Highlights in stroke, movement disorders, dementia, sleep disorders and rare diseases
Five leading experts then presented their choices for the take home messages of EAN 2023, starting with Prof. Roland Wiest from Bern, Switzerland, presenting the cerebrovascular disorders highlights.
“I would like today to take you on a journey from the past into the future,” he said, starting with a lecture given by EAN 2023 Local Organising Committee chair, Prof. László Sziba, from Budapest.
“Hungary is very famous for its pathology, and Prof. Sziba presented striking data related to more than 500 autopsies that have been done on patients with stroke. He found that 1.5% malignant systemic tumours are not detected by CT or clinics,” he said. “This is knowledge about the actual incidence of stroke, and hence the dead teach the living.”
Wiest also singled out a paper on how interpretable AI can predict the incidence of stroke.
Prof. Pille Taba from Tartu, Estonia, highlighted studies that used new technologies in movement disorders.
“There were interesting new techniques to monitor and make treatment decisions, and follow-up chronic progressive disease,” she said.
Talba also selected a study using sensors that can be used in Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders, as well as a review of machine learning and AI.
“These advances will be very important in the management of movement diseases, to register activities and improve patient follow-up,” she said.
Prof. Dag Aarsland from London, UK gave his selection of the best works on dementia, an area filled with exciting new developments, especially in the field of prevention.
“One of the key challenges for the whole medical community in the future will be to reduce the number of people who are going to develop dementia,” he said. “The next focus would be to develop a more precision intervention focus rather than having a one size fits all approach.”.
Prof. Ambra Stefani from Innsbruck, Austria, presented her selection of studies tackling basic, translational, and clinical sleep science.
She highlighted a study on a novel equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (ENT1) inhibitor as a hypnotic for insomnia treatment. “This ENT1 inhibitor has shown efficacy on both physiological sleep-wake activity and insomnia,” she said.
She also singled out projects exploring narcolepsy, the link between sleep and neurodegeneration, and sleep apnoea.
Prof. Marianne de Visser from Amsterdam, the Netherlands selected studies touching on improving care and diagnosis of rare diseases.
“Three hundred million people suffer from a rare disease worldwide; 50% of those patients are children, 50% are neurology-related,” she said. “The patient journey is a winding road. Seventy percent are misdiagnosed, 40% more than once, and the whole journey takes on average eight years.”
Prof. Mark Edwards from London, UK introduced Dr Luca Leonardi from Rome, Italy, who received the European Journal of Neurology Award for his paper on ‘Skin amyloid deposits and nerve fibre loss as markers of neuropathy onset and progression in hereditary transthyretin amyloidosis’.
Prof. Boon then invited EAN Executive Director Anja Sander to come on stage and thanked her and her staff for organising a wonderful congress.
Finally, Prof. Reetta K. Kälviäinen from Kuopio, Finland gave some general information about the 10th Annual Congress of the European Academy of Neurology—EAN 2024—which will take place on 29 June to 2 July, in Helsinki, Finland.