Featured Spotlight Team Member
Samuel A Frank, MD
This edition's Physician Spotlight is on Dr. Samuel Frank, Associate Professor of Neurology and Harvard Medical Faculty Physician at BIDMC, who is interested in the crossroads between neurology and celiac disease.
Samuel A. Frank, MD, is director of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America Center of Excellence at BIDMC and an Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. He completed his fellowship in Experimental Therapeutics with a focus on movement disorders. Beyond his clinical and research focus on Huntington’s disease, Dr. Frank directs research and leads clinical trials as part of BIDMC’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center with a goal of developing treatments to improve the lives of patients with Parkinson’s disease. On a personal level, Dr. Frank has two daughters and many other family members with celiac disease.
Where do you see the strongest intersection in your practice between neurology and celiac disease or other gluten related disorders?
Patients with celiac disease may have neurologic complications related to the immune mechanism of the disease or malabsorption. Some patients are concerned about or describe a coordination problem (ataxia) or nerve damage (neuropathy). Others describe a vague sense of their thoughts not being clear or “brain fog.” In addition, I have found many patients with migraines who turn out to have celiac disease as the root cause.
Which of the neurological symptoms that you see in your patients with celiac disease tend to improve on the gluten-free diet?
If I diagnose patients with celiac disease due to neurological issues, after they properly address their celiac disease and carefully follow a gluten-free diet, almost all of their symptoms improve and some may disappear completely.
What is the focus of your current research (particularly as it relates to the GI patient population)?
I spend most of my research time helping to conduct human based studies in Huntington Disease and Parkinson Disease. Both of these diseases have prominent and common GI issues, some of which overlap with celiac disease. As we understand neurological disorders better, we may be able to develop treatments that may improve the symptoms and even underlying diseases of the gluten-related disorders spectrum.
What is the top health tip that you share with your patients with celiac disease who come to see you for neurological concerns?
Stick with the gluten-free diet and take care of the rest of your body, too!
Dr. Qura Tul Ain Rashid
We also graciously welcome BIDMC Allergist, Dr. Qura Tul Ain Rashid, who recently joined the Celiac Center team. She provides expert treatment and care for patients with allergy and immunology conditions related to gluten-related disorders. We will feature her clinical work in our next e-newsletter.