Dr. William J Mack is the Principal Investigator and Director of the Cerebrovascular Laboratory in the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute. He has active NIH R01 funding for his research. Dr. Mack’s scientific interests are focused on translational efforts to treat ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. Laboratory investigations concentrate on the pathophysiology of cerebral ischemia, aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage and inflammatory modulation. Using the information and experience gained in the laboratory, Dr. Mack is working to develop new technologies, techniques, and therapies to directly improve the clinical care administered to stroke patients.
We sat down with Dr. Mack for a Q&A about his involvement with The Bee Foundation and his interest in neurological research.
The Bee Foundation: How did you get involved with The Bee Foundation?
Dr. William J Mack: I heard about the great work the Bee Foundation is doing through the other Scientific Advisory Board members. Brain aneurysms are a disease that we deal with daily in our clinical practices. It is important to increase public awareness about the disease. The Bee Foundation leadership is very impressive. It is wonderful to be able to work with a group of intelligent, resourceful people who are so committed to an important cause.
TBF: What makes being a Scientific Advisory Board member for The Bee Foundation so important?
WJM: Membership on the Scientific Advisory Board provides the opportunity to work with a group of motivated individuals to affect change on a large scale. The foundation has the energy and resources to increase public awareness. The Scientific Advisory Board members can provide clinical guidance and help strengthen the relationships between the foundation and organized neurosurgery, neurology, and neuroradiology. The Scientific Advisory Board members help link the medical side of brain aneurysm management with the advocacy and support side.
TBF: Why do you believe it is important to support The Bee Foundation given their dedication to funding preventive research?
WJM: Brain aneurysms are common and rupture can often be fatal. Prevention is the best way to save lives. There are many people who are not well-informed about and the risks of brain aneurysms and the potential consequences of rupture. I think it is important to increase public awareness so that people have a good understanding of the condition.
TBF: What do you believe is the most pressing unmet need in the field of brain aneurysm research and how can private nonprofit organizations contribute?
WJM: There are many areas of brain aneurysm research that are pressing and exciting. I believe that genetic/genomic studies may uncover susceptibilities to brain aneurysm formation/rupture that have been previously unknown/undiscovered. This type of research could move the field towards personalized medicine. Research targeting cerebral vasospasm is also important. Vasospasm is a deadly consequence of aneurysmal rupture. Preventing cerebral vasospasm could decrease the incidence of death and disability following subarachnoid hemorrhage.
TBF: I see your areas of interest are numerous: stroke, brain aneurysms, subarachnoid hemorrhage, arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), arteriovenous fistulas, cavernous malformations, carotid artery disease, intracranial stenosis, and brain tumors. Why did you want to work in the field of brain aneurysms specifically?
WJM: Although not the most common cerebrovascular disease (that would be ischemic stroke), patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage are the ones that often spend the most time in our Neuro Critical Care Unit. Often, these patients did not even realize they had a brain aneurysm prior to the rupture. Increasing awareness and knowledge on the parts of the patients/ families may serve to prevent some of these events and help individuals and their families through a very trying time.
TBF: What new technology shows promise in the prevention/treatment of brain aneurysm ruptures?
WJM: New endovascular devices (through the blood vessels) are allowing physicians to treat brain aneurysms in a minimally invasive fashion. These new technologies have brought excitement to the field and have better equipped practitioners to effectively treat brain aneurysms. Advance imaging technologies have allowed better recognition of cerebral aneurysms and aided with the management of cerebral vasospasm.
TBF: What ongoing study/studies are you working on through your NIH R01 funding? Any results you can speak about?
WJM: I am studying the effects of environmental exposures (specifically air pollution) on cerebrovascular diseases. We began our studies on stroke and cerebral hypo perfusion. We have found that air pollution exposure causes increased stroke volume following large vessel occlusion. As brain aneurysms are thought to be impacted by inflammation, these findings could be relevant to aneurysm formation or rupture. This is an exciting area of future study.
TBF: What is the importance of translational research, in addition to clinical research?
WJM: Translational research is important to facilitate an active link between the laboratory and clinical medicine. The questions generated in the clinic can be brought to the laboratory. Experiments conducted in the laboratory can then be designed to answer the challenging clinical questions. This back and forth model is the basis for translational research and can help develop/ advance the devices, methods and paradigms employed in clinical medicine.
TBF: Are there any upcoming events from the Society of Neurointerventional Surgery, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, or the American Association of Neurological Surgeons’ Cerebrovascular Section that we should keep an eye on?
WJM: Theses societies’ annual meetings are the time when many of the cutting-edge research and clinical studies are presented. The meetings bring together basic science researchers, clinicians and advocates for the advancement of brain aneurysm prevention and treatment.