Belgian Neurologist Awarded with the Generet Prize for Improving Lives of Coma Survivors

Not all the coma patients recover from it, and luckily if they do it is an absolute moment of happiness for their family and loved ones but their sufferings are rarely over. Usually, brain damage makes them unable to speak or make them paralyze.

Belgian brain doctor Steven Laureys has devoted himself to improving the lives of patients who were formerly in a coma and of their families. He is recognized as the leading researcher and clinician in the field of consciousness and neurology worldwide.

The King Baudouin Foundation recognized his dedication and awarded him with Generet Prize along with a million-euro ($1.1 million). The award will provide support to the Laureys’ work of the world-class Coma Science Group at the University Hospital of Liege.

Laureys told that there is enormous ignorance related to the brain and patients he has been treating were neglected by medical science. He led a team of 30 researchers and observes a silent epidemic of such cases in which patients were revived from the coma but their consciousness varying to various degrees.

Laureys also identified two different networks of consciousness in the brain which include an external one that deals with the environment and the internal one which focuses on us. This proven is crucial in determining the recovery rates of patients in a coma.

In Belgium, around 150 cases are recorded yearly. Some of them who leave intensive care can open eyes but only move in response to outside stimuli. In some rare cases, full consciousness comes back but the body remains paralyzed and limits two-way communication with the loved ones and caretakers.

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The options of treatments are limited but the experienced doctor says that this royal grant will support his team to study the promising route, the use of the apomorphine drug.

Apomorphine is already used for treating Parkinson’s disease or for tackling certain addiction.

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It could be effective in the gradual and gentle treatment of the brain. The researcher Leandro Sanz said that the patients suffering from brain injuries have currently no proven treatment which is truly effective.  If there will be one than that that will surely make a huge difference in the quality of patients’ life.

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Laurey’s team tackles the toughest cases of Belgium like brain hemorrhage, head trauma, a cardiac arrest which plunges the patients into a coma and seriously damages the brain. The team assesses the treatment and recovery of neurological disability, neuronal plasticity in the severely damaged brain.

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His research aims at the residual cerebral functions in patients, who are in a coma, reduced conscious state.

One of the most successful cases was the case of a professional cyclist of Belgian Stig Broeckx, who faced catastrophic crash on the Belgium tour in May 2016. He suffered different brain injuries and was in a coma for six months. Luckily, he can ride again.

He regained motor control and intellectual functions with great motivation.

The Generet Prize awarded from the King Baudoin Foundation which is named after the ex- Belgian monarch which gives 44.8 million euros in donations.

The prize’s first edition is for Professor Mikka Vikkula, a Finnish specialist in vascular medicine who works at Belgium’s Catholic University of Louvain.