Neuroimmunology

Research HighlightsVisit the Neuroimmunology Patient page


The Neuroimmunology Division encompasses the research, treatment and management of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which accounts for about 80% of our patient visits. Included in the clinic visits are pediatric patients with MS and/or other neuroimmune disorders. The clinic also serves as a treatment and resource center for other neurological autoimmune diseases. These include patients with neuroimmune disorders such as Neuromyelitis optica, autoimmune anti MOG antibody syndromes, Susac’s syndrome, neurosarcoidosis, CNS paraneoplastic disorders, inflammatory and degenerative leucodystrophies, chronic meningitis, and chronic inflammatory optic neuritis. 

Faculty members dedicate themselves both to the clinical treatment of patients, as well as research focused on changing the course of these diseases. 

The MS clinic, which has been recognized as a Center of Excellence by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, follows over 5,000 patients in the region, making it one of the largest MS services in the Southeast. This depth of experience lends itself to expert care. A relapse clinic is offered where patients with acute or worsening symptoms can be seen in 24-48 hours. The division operates an outpatient center overseeing intravenous infusion therapies for thousands of patients per year. Patients benefit from the clinical experience of faculty members, as well as numerous clinical trials for various medications and other therapies.

Patients, trainees and faculty members all benefit from the close collaborations Neuroimmunology maintains with the Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology, Neuro-ophthalmology, Neuro-Urology, physical therapy and rehabilitation divisions and programs at Vanderbilt. These collegial relationships ensure comprehensive evaluations of patients and continued educational development for providers. 

The Neuroimmunology Division collaborates closely with the Vanderbilt Radiology Department in a progressive neuro-imaging program. The program involves the use of a powerful 7 Tesla magnet—one of only a few in the world used for human research—giving faculty members a heightened understanding of the structure of the brain and spinal cord.

In addition to clinical trials and neuro-imaging research, the division also has investigators active in the basic lab aspects of central nervous system demyelination and multiple sclerosis.


Research HighlightsResearch Highlights

The primary objective of the research that takes place in the Neuroimmunology Division is changing the course of MS and other neurological autoimmune diseases. The large patient population in the clinic lends itself to extensive opportunities for clinical trials, while lab-based research is grounded in clinical experience.

Highlights of current areas of research include:

  • Several clinical drug trials for MS and other, more rare, autoimmune diseases
  • A significant grant from the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation supporting advanced neuroimaging studies
  • Laboratory studies focusing on the molecular repair and restoration of the nervous system
  • Studies investigating the biomarkers of MS that indicate when the disease is active versus when it is quiet, providing critical data that informs future treatments for the disease

View the immunology research page


Education & TrainingEducation & Training

Residents and other trainees rotating in the Neuroimmunology clinic will gain a wealth of experience with various treatment options for MS. They will also have opportunities to engage in various aspects of research, including clinical trials and neuroimaging. The division offers continuing education for fellows and faculty via journal clubs, weekly discussions on rare disorders, updates on research advancements, etc.

A one-year clinical fellowship in Neuroimmunology is offered annually. Visit the Fellowship Page for more information.


Recent and Notable PublicationsRecent and Notable Publications

McKeithan LJ, Lyttle BD, Box BA, O'Grady KP, Dortch RD, Conrad BN, Thompson LM, Rogers BP, Newhouse P, Pawate S, Bagnato F, Smith SA. 7T quantitative magnetization transfer (qMT) of cortical gray matter in multiple sclerosis correlates with cognitive impairment. Neuroimage. 2019 Dec;203:116190.

Tyshkov C, Pawate S, Bradshaw MJ, Kimbrough DJ, Chitnis T, Gelfand JM, Ryerson LZ, Kister Multiple sclerosis and sarcoidosis: A case for coexistence.. Neurol Clin Pract. 2019 Jun;9(3):218-227..

O'Grady KP, Dula AN, Lyttle BD, Thompson LM, Conrad BN, Box BA, McKeithan LJ, Pawate S, Bagnato F, Landman BA, Newhouse P, Smith SA. Glutamate-sensitive imaging and evaluation of cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler. 2019 Oct;25(12):1580-1592

Stern BJ, Royal W 3rd, Gelfand JM, Clifford DB, Tavee J, Pawate S, Berger JR, Aksamit AJ, Krumholz A, Pardo CA, Moller DR, Judson MA, Drent M, Baughman RP.Definition and Consensus Diagnostic Criteria for Neurosarcoidosis: From the Neurosarcoidosis Consortium Consensus Group.JAMA Neurol. 2018 Dec 1;75(12):1546-1553.

Longbrake EE, Kantor D, Pawate S, Bradshaw MJ, von Geldern G, Chahin S, Cross AH, Parks BJ, Rice M, Khoury SJ, Yamout B, Zeineddine M, Russell-Giller S, Caminero-Rodriguez A, Edwards K, Lathi E, VanderKodde D, Meador W, Berkovich R, Ge L, Bacon TE, Kister I.Effectiveness of alternative dose fingolimod for multiple sclerosis.Neurol Clin Pract. 2018 Apr;8(2):102-107. 

Bagnato F, Hametner S, Franco G, Pawate S, Sriram S, Lassmann H, Gore J, Smith SE, Dortch R. Selective Inversion Recovery Quantitative Magnetization Transfer Brain MRI at 7T: Clinical and Postmortem Validation in Multiple Sclerosis. J Neuroimaging. 2018 Jul;28(4):380-388.

Conrad BN, Barry RL, Rogers BP, Maki S, Mishra A, Thukral S, Sriram S, Bhatia A, Pawate S, Gore JC, Smith SA. Multiple sclerosis lesions affect intrinsic functional connectivity of the spinal cord. Brain. 2018 Jun 1;141(6):1650-1664. 

Sriram S, Shaginurova G, Tossberg JT, Natarajan C, Spurlock CF 3rd, Aune TM Longitudinal changes in the expression of IL-33 and IL-33 regulated genes in relapsing remitting MS. PLoS One. 2018 Dec 18;13(12)

Heinrich MJ, Purcell CA, Pruijssers AJ, Zhao Y, Spurlock CF 3rd, Sriram S, Ogden KM, Dermody TS, Scholz MB, Crooke PS 3rd, Karijolich J, Aune TM.

Endogenous double-stranded Alu RNA elements stimulate IFN-responses in relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.  J Autoimmun. 2019 Jun;100:40-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2019.02.003. Epub 2019 Feb 28. PMID:

Bagnato F, Jeffries N, Richert ND, Stone RD, Ohayon JM, McFarland HF, Frank JA. Evolution of T1 black holes in patients with multiple sclerosis imaged monthly for four years. Brain. 126:1782-1789;2003.

Bagnato F, Hametner S, Yao B, van Gelderen P, Merkle H, Cantor F, Lassmann H, Duyn J. Tracking iron in multiple sclerosis: a combined imaging and histopathological study at 7 tesla. Brain. 134:3602-3615;2011.

Bagnato F, Hametner H, Boyd E, Endmayr V, Shi Y, Ikonomiodu VN, Chen G, Pawate S, Lassmann H, Gore J, Smith SA, Welch B. Untangling the MRI Susceptibility Contrast in Multiple Sclerosis: a Combined Imaging-Histology Study at Seven Tesla. PLoS One. 13(3):e0193839. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0193839. eCollection 2018.

Bagnato F, Franco G, Li H, Kaden E, Ye F, Fan R, Chen A, Alexander DC, Smith SA, Dortch R, Xu J. Probing axons using multi-compartmental diffusion in multiple sclerosis. Ann Clin Transl Neurol.6:1595-1605;2019. 

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