Multiple Sclerosis Society
The latest MS Society Grant Rounds received 58 research applications. Of these, ten research proposals were accepted for funding following a rigorous review process. Nine research proposals will be funded by the MS Society National Centre, and one grant application has been approved by the Scottish Executive Committee, and will be funded by the Scottish MS Society. Four of these projects are described below:
Genetic susceptibility to MS
Prof. G Ebers, Oxford University, 3 year PhD Studentship, £63,233.
The cause of MS is unknown but it is widely accepted that both genetic and environmental factors play a role. MS can occur in more than one member of the same family, but it is not inherited in a straightforward way and many different genes are thought to be involved. This project aims to explore the tendency for certain genes to be inherited in people who go on to develop MS, by using information from families where MS is present in more than four family members. By identifying specific genes present in family members with MS, it may be possible to detect new genes, which have a role in determining susceptibility to MS.
Prof. A Compston, Cambridge University, 3 year Project grant, £89,813.
Campath-1H is an experimental drug currently being trialled in 150 people with early relapsing remitting MS. It is a type of antibody which attaches to cells of the immune system, and causes them to be destroyed, reducing inflammation in MS. People already treated have shown improvements in disability, although it is not clear how this process works. It might be that stopping inflammation allows the brain to repair itself. Or it might be that immune cells in the bloodstream travel to the brain and spinal cord where they release factors which actually help protect nerves from damage. This research aims to monitor disability in people after treatment with Campath-1H and examine blood samples to see which cells of the immune system might be involved in causing this improvement in disability. This research should help determine possible good effects of inflammation from harmful ones, and might lead to improved treatments for people with MS.
Using stem cells to repair MS damage
Prof. N Scolding, Bristol University, 3 year Project grant, £237,040.
Stem cells are unspecialised cells which can develop into almost any cell in the body. In the future it might be possible to fix the damage which occurs in MS, by using stem cells to repair myelin (the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres) in the brain and spinal cord. This research project focuses on determining how human stem cells, taken from bone marrow, act when injected into mice with an MS–like disease. The researchers are investigating whether stem cells can travel from the bloodstream to areas of damage and if so, whether they can effectively repair myelin. Risks associated with this procedure will also be assessed. Using human stem cells in this way is a major step forward in the development of potential treatments designed to repair the damage caused by MS.
Investigating why myelin repair fails in MS
Prof. C Linnington, Aberdeen University, Project grant of £158,137.
In MS, inflammation occurs, leading to damage to myelin (the protective
sheath surrounding nerve fibres) and nerve fibre loss. Initially, the body
is able to repair the damage to myelin, but this fails over time, leading
to nerve fibre loss and permanent disability. One theory why this repair
mechanism fails is that the body mistakenly recognises part of the repairing
cells (called oligodendrocyte progenitor cells) as “foreign” and attacks
the cells, preventing myelin repair and leading to further damage. This
project aims to identify whether this is widespread in people with MS,
which part of the repairing cells the body mistakenly recognises and how
this affects the amount of damage seen in MS. The research will also examine
whether this process can be linked to the course of MS and might provide
information which could possibly be used to develop new therapies.
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