July 10, 2003
Marianne Miles Ph.D., Research Manager
In the Autumn 2002 Grant Round 10 research proposals were accepted for MS Society funding. We take a closer look at four.
33 research applications have been received in the latest MS Society autumn grant round. Of these, 10 research proposals were accepted for funding following a rigorous review process. The MS Society National Centre will fund eight of these, and a further two will be funded by MS Society, Scotland.
How corticosteroids affect brain cells and myelin repair.
Dr. D. Chari Cambridge University
Four-year Junior Fellowship: £300,427
In MS, damage occurs to myelin (the protective, insulating material of nerve fibres) and to the nerve fibres themselves, which leads to relapses and varying levels of disability. Corticosteroids are widely used to reduce the severity and length of relapses in MS. At the moment however, it is unclear whether steroids actually increase or decrease the amount of myelin repair (remyelination) after a relapse. It is thought that steroids affect the rate at which oligodendrocytes (the cells which make myelin) grow, although how this works and what mechanisms are involved is unknown.
This study will look at how corticosteroids affect oligodendrocytes using both laboratory 'test tube' and animal models. This will enable researchers to assess whether alternative therapies that cause less damage to oligodendrocytes are needed, to treat relapses.
Using brain tissue from people with MS to find out how nerve fibres are damaged.
Professor M. Esiri Oxford University
Two-year Project Grant: £78,162
In MS, the amount of nerve fibre loss has been closely linked with disability levels and disease progression. Therefore understanding the mechanism behind nerve fibre loss may enable the development of therapies targeted at preserving nerve fibres and reducing disability.
This study aims to use brain tissue from people with MS and diseases similar to MS to discover if there are any underlying, common ways in which the damage occurs. This research will also provide information about the amount of nerve fibre loss, and at what stage in the disease major losses occur.
Investigating a gene in people with MS.
Prof. A. Compston
Two-year Project Grant: £286,500
Although the cause of MS is unknown, several factors are thought to play a role including genetic and environmental factors. It is known that some people have an increased genetic susceptibility to developing MS. Previous research has shown that these people share common genes. One gene, identified in a previous study funded by the MS Society, named the POU2AF1 gene, is common in people of northern European origin. This follow-up research aims to determine exactly what the POU2AF1 gene does. It also aims to look at the different variations of this gene and determine which are responsible for increasing people's susceptibility to MS, by comparing genes found in people with MS, to people without MS.
This research aims to provide information about the mechanisms behind susceptibility and could provide new treatment opportunities, targeted at inactivating or modifying this gene.
An international database of how MS research is progressing.
Prof. A. Neiss
Sylvia Lawry Centre for Multiple Sclerosis Research, Germany
Five-year Project Grant: £150,000
Currently the main way of evaluating new drugs and treatments for MS is to carry out clinical trials where the treatment is compared to a placebo (a 'control' known to cause no effect). This allows the effect of the drug to be evaluated. However, people are naturally becoming less keen to participate in trials where there is a risk of receiving placebo over new drug treatments.
As an alternative, this research project aims to pull together historical
information, including clinical and MRI (brain imaging) data from people
with MS, to see if it is possible to predict how the disease will develop.
Researchers will also investigate whether there are any 'markers' that
could be used to predict disease development and any common patterns. It
is hoped that the data collected from this research will mean an end to
placebo-controlled clinical trials, as a 'virtual' placebo group will be
developed from the data available.
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