Dr Josep Dalmau, ICREA Research Professor at IDIBAPS and Professor of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, leads at IDIBAPS the Autoimmunity against Synaptic Antigens team. Their research focuses on a group of diseases located at the intercrossing of autoimmunity, cancer and synaptic proteins. This includes the description of new syndromes, the associated immune mechanisms, isolation of the target antigens, and the development of diagnostic tests and treatment strategies. These studies have identified 17 autoantigens and have led to diagnostic tests, some of which are used all over the world.
In the last 5 years, Dr Dalmau has discovered a new category of autoimmune processes resulting in memory, behaviour and cognition alterations, and which may cause psychosis like happened to Susannah Cahalan. These processes are associated with autoimmune responses characterised by antibodies targeted at synaptic proteins and receptors, such as the glutamate receptors (NMDA, AMPA) or the GABA(B) receptors, or synaptic proteins related with epilepsy (LGI1, Caspr2). The results of these studies have had an impact on many medical disciplines and on neuroscience, since they offer a link between immune processes and synaptic activity related to memory, behaviour, psychosis, epilepsy and neuron degeneration.
In fact, this issue has been breaking news in the United States. It was covered by prestigious media such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the NPR (National Public Radio), or TV programs such as Discovery Channel: Mistery Diagnosis, Good Morning America or journalist Katie Couric’s show.
Read in Scientific American more about Susannah Cahalan’s book, “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness”, and the research conducted by Dr. Dalmau.