Neuroimaging Research Director Discusses Advances that Aid Treatment of MS
Guy Buckle, M.D., MPH, joined Shepherd Center’s Andrew C. Carlos MS Institute in March 2014 after spending more than 20 years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, as director of clinical care at Partners Multiple Sclerosis Center.
Q: As a neuroimaging expert, what have the advances in MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) allowed doctors to do differently?
A: MRIs have completely revolutionized all aspects of neurology, especially for those of us who work with multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke and neuro-oncology patients. Before MRIs, you had CT scans that allowed you to see a brain tumor if it was large enough, or a hemorrhage. But they didn’t help when it came to strokes or MS. We had to just go by clinical history and sometimes-painful tests such as spinal taps. MRIs help us choose and change therapies much more efficiently for patients.
Q: A lot of your research is focused on multiple sclerosis. What makes MS more difficult to track?
A: There’s no biomarker in MS, no obvious indicator of the disease. With diabetes or stroke, for instance, you can have predictors, such as blood glucose, cholesterol level and blood pressure. The MRI can show us when MS is active even when the patients don’t have symptoms. But MRIs are expensive and cumbersome to do on a regular basis. What we really need is a blood test.
Q: What other research do you hope to do?
A: The other piece we’re missing is a treatment for the progressive phase of MS, which happens when someone isn’t treated in time, or their treatments don’t work. We don’t have a viable treatment for that yet. One theory is that the progressive phase of MS is a spinal cord disease. No large-scale clinical trial has ever looked at the spinal cord in MS. But Shepherd Center is obviously an ideal place to study this theory.
Q: To say music is your other passion would be a bit of an understatement, right?
A: When I was a kid, I was absolutely going to be a professional musician. I started with the electric guitar, then moved to jazz and classical guitar, voice, piano and composition. I went to Boston to study music at Tufts University and New England Conservatory of Music. Once I got to the graduate level and saw how talented everyone else was, I realized I had better continue with my interest in medicine
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT DR. BUCKLE
Director of clinical care at Partners Multiple Sclerosis Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; assistant professor of neurology, Harvard Medical School
Residency, Chief Residency and Fellowship:
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Neurology, Neuroimmunology, Multiple Sclerosis)
Tufts University School of Medicine
Undergraduate and Master’s Degrees:
Tufts University (B.A. in Music, M.A. in Music Theory and Composition)
- Favorite instruments: Guitar, voice and piano.
- Dr. Buckle and his wife Martha love to travel. Two spots on their bucket list are the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica.
- The couple hopes to one day build a home on the North Carolina farm inherited from Martha’s grandmother.
- The Buckles have two male rescued cats. One is from Boston, and the other is a three-legged adoptee from Mexico. “They have very different political views but manage to get along – most of the time!” he says.
Interviewed by Phillip Jordan
Photos by Louie Favorite
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.