Susanne Benseler, MD, MSc, PhD

Study:  Development of a uniform histology scoring systems for Small Vessel CNS Vasculitis in adulthood and childhood
Institution:  The Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto
Award:  $40,128.10, one-year study

Benseler was inspired to study CNS vasculitis in pediatric patients after seeing previously healthy children present with severe neurological deficits including seizures, stroke, loss of vision of speech, inability to concentrate and more devastating symptoms. “Until about 10 years ago, brain vessel inflammation, or CNS vasculitis, remained unrecognized and untreated,” she says. “Children often died of their vasculitis without anybody making the diagnosis while they were alive.”

She began looking for a way to discover the underlying disease more quickly, reducing negative impacts and increasing quality of life.

“The mean age of a child with CNS vasculitis is 10, so an early diagnosis can alter their lives immensely,” Benseler explains. “If we can start treatment earlier and make it more tailored, chances of long-term brain damage are increasingly low and patients have a chance to recover completely and return to the life they lived before.”

Her team is developing a standardized  approach to use the most reliable tests to expedite and confirm diagnosis and prevent permanent brain injury..

“This grant will help us to identify what is specific and instrumental for the diagnosis of CNS vasculitis on brain biopsy. New tests will help to identify possible new targets for treatment, which will be more targeted with fewer side-effects.”