Sean J. Pittock, M.D., is the director of Mayo Clinic's Center for Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune Neurology and of Mayo's Neuroimmunology Research Laboratory.
Dr. Pittock's clinical and laboratory expertise lies in modifying, for clinical application, the antibody assays developed by the Neuroimmunology Research Laboratory. Specific areas of focus include multidisciplinary, collaborative research into autoimmune neurological disorders, autoimmune gastrointestinal dysmotility (AGID) and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).
Autoimmune neurological disorders. Autoimmune neurological disorders comprise a spectrum of idiopathic and paraneoplastic entities — often misdiagnosed as degenerative disorders — that intersect all traditional subspecialties, including movement disorders, epilepsy, behavioral, neuromuscular, autonomic and demyelinating disorders.
Dr. Pittock oversees multiple interdepartmental collaborative studies in this area, including:
- Investigating the role of positron emission tomography in the diagnostic evaluation of paraneoplastic disorders
- Defining autoimmune dementias
- Expanding the knowledge of the clinical associations of antibodies targeting cation channels, including the voltage-gated potassium and calcium channels and the ganglionic acetylcholine receptor
- Developing novel immunotherapeutic approaches to autoimmune neurological disorders
- Autoimmune gastrointestinal dysmotility (AGID). Dr. Pittock is currently working with Mayo Clinic's Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in the investigation and treatment of patients with AGID. He is also a co-investigator of a program project grant from the National Institutes of Health, investigating the pathobiology of the enteric nervous system. The aim of the project is to define neural autoantibody profiles of AGID and characterize novel human serum autoantibodies that bind selectively to elements of the enteric nervous systems.
Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD). As a member of a national neuromyelitis optica (NMO) consortium, Dr. Pittock has played a central role in Mayo's studies of the first serological marker for a demyelinating disorder of the human central nervous system, NMO-IgG. His continuing analyses of the accompaniments of this important new antibody complement the clinical criteria proposed for diagnosis of NMOSD, the recently proposed unifying term for NMO and related syndromes.
Furthermore, Dr. Pittock's clinical, imaging and serological correlative studies are providing the foundation for future investigation of the basic immunological mechanisms that cause NMOSD. His bench-to-bedside investigation of aquaporin-4 autoimmunity is an individualized translational medicine approach aimed at the development of laboratory-based tools that can better diagnose and predict outcome in NMOSD.
This work is funded partly by the Guthy Jackson Charitable Foundation. Dr. Pittock is also the principal investigator of an Alexion-funded open label trial of the drug eculizumab in NMOSD.
Significance to patient care
Complementing his laboratory research, Dr. Pittock is the founder of the Autoimmune Neurology Clinic in the Center for Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune Neurology, which interacts closely with the Neuroimmunology Research Laboratory and has allowed the development of a unique translational practice extending the laboratory's serological findings directly to the bedside. This new, 21st-century subspecialty addresses diagnosis and treatment of organ-specific autoimmune disorders that target the central and peripheral nervous systems.