Dec 9, 2002
Newsquest (Oxfordshire) Ltd
A team of Oxford scientists developing treatments for multiple sclerosis is to share a prize of one million euros (£650,000) awarded by the European Commission.
Oxford is one of six centres involved in the research, led by Prof Lars Fugger of Oxford University's Institute of Molecular Medicine, which succeeded in describing how the disease starts.
The winning research showed how a virus can mimic a compound found naturally in the nervous system and trigger the disease, which usually causes sudden neurologic symptoms including vision loss, paralysis, numbness and walking difficulties.
Prof Fugger, originally from Denmark, works at the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Headington.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the nervous system affecting 350,000 people in Europe. There is no cure.
Prof Fugger said: "Multiple sclerosis is a really complex disease. We have found one piece of the puzzle, but the long-term aim is to design drugs to treat it."
The Oxford team -- Prof John Bell, Prof Yvonne Jones, Dr Karl Harlos, Heather Lang, Dr Shinji Ikemizu and Prof David Stuart -- helped to identify compounds in the brains of MS patients which explain how their immune system over-reacts to start attacking their own cells.
As well as the Oxford and Danish teams, scientists from Sweden, Scotland and the USA are involved in the research.
The MS scientists have bred mice with the genetic defects of human MS patients to develop and test new drugs.
Several companies have expressed interest in getting access to the mice and intellectual property.
The MS research teams will share the prize money with another project based in Holland, which discovered the origins of gamma ray bursts which happen in outer space.
It was one of 10 projects shortlisted for the Descartes Prize, awarded
for outstanding scientific research through international collaboration.
©2002 Newsquest Media Group